The Illinois Waterway Visitor Center at Starved Rock Lock and Dam at Ottawa, Ill., was an island last week as heavy rains caused flooding on the upper portions of the waterway. (Rock Island Engineer District photo)

Flooding Hits Illinois, Upper Mississippi Rivers

Heavy rains over the weekend of May 16–17 led to high water and flooding on the Illinois River and parts of the Upper Mississippi River. The Illinois River was under a major flood warning after heavy rains over the previous few days. The river crested at about 11 p.m. on May 19 at Ottawa, coming within 1.1 feet of the record. Marseilles Lock and Dam (Illinois River Mile 245) and Starved Rock Lock and Dam (Mile 231) are currently closed due to the high water.

A barge that had broken loose from the ADM Terminal at Mile 243.3 on the Illinois River  May 18 lodged against a shore pier at the Veterans Memorial Bridge in Ottawa, Ill., and was retrieved next day. The half-loaded barge was reported missing at about 3 a.m. May 18 and then tracked. The Illinois Department of Transportation, U.S. Coast Guard and Ottawa authorities worked together to remove the barge, along with vessels from ARTCO Ottawa, according to the Coast Guard. No injuries or leaks were reported, and the bridge remained open to car traffic during the removal.

In Peoria, Ill., the Illinois River threatened to cross the railroad tracks at the River Station. Peoria Public Works crews and flood fighters told local news sources on May 20 they are continuing to extend a six-foot and growing wall of sandbags along the rear of the River Station. The river near Peoria had risen two feet within a 24-hour period. The National Weather Service forecast the river would crest at Peoria at 27.7 feet by the morning of May 22.

Flooding At Alton

On the Upper Mississippi River, the auxiliary chambers of Locks and Dams 14 and 15 were closed May 20 due to high water.

Sign up for Waterway Journal's weekly newsletter.Our weekly newsletter delivers the latest inland marine news straight to your inbox including breaking news, our exclusive columns and much more.

In Alton, Ill., the heavy weekend rains pushed area rivers into flood levels. At 10 a.m. May 17, the National Weather Service recorded 3.42 inches of rain over a single 24-hour period in Alton, with flash flooding reported in several communities. The nearby riverside town of Grafton, Ill., recorded 2.11 inches over 24 hours.

On May 16, the Mississippi River at the Melvin Price Locks and Dam was at 15.63 feet. By 1 a.m. May 18, two days later, the river had risen more than five feet to flood level of 21 feet. A crest of 23.5 feet was expected on the morning of May 21.
The river was expected to drop below flood stage by the morning of May 22.