ORIGINALLY WRITTEN ALEEN RATZLAFF
People who were wishing for rain got their wish-and more.
Steady rainfall-from nine inches to unconfirmed reports of more than 12 inches-began Thursday and continued through Saturday, covering roads and causing plenty of problems in and around Hillsboro.
Four hard-surface county roads – Indigo, Kanza, Nighthawk and Sunflower-were closed to traffic after Friday night’s deluge of rain.
Three people rescued
Deputy Sgt. Jeff Soyez’s timely response early Saturday morning enabled a mother and her children to get out safely from a car that was filling with water after it hydroplaned and went into a ditch on Remington Road between Pilsen and U.S. Highway 56.
“Jeff Soyez tied himself off to his patrol vehicle and waded in and got the two children and their mother out,” Sheriff Lee Becker said. “I told Jeff, ‘I guess we have a hero here.'”
According to the sheriff’s log, Michele Morales, whose residence was not reported, called 911 around 5:30 a.m. and said water was rising in the vehicle. She was in the car with her two children, ages 2 and 4, who were strapped in the backseat.
“They were unable to get out of the vehicle,” Becker said. He said he thought Morales was caught off guard by the water while it was still dark.
“She did the right thing staying with her vehicle,” he said. “Had she tried to get out on her own, she may have been swept away by the water.”
When Soyez and officer Howard Kahler of the Marion Police Department arrived at the scene, water had risen in the vehicle to the mother’s waist and the children’s ankles.
“Jeff took off his duty gear to go in after the children,” Becker said. “He told me he tied himself to his vehicle and walked out there to get them.”
By 5:51 a.m., the children were out and an ambulance was on its way to check everyone out, Becker said.
Becker cautioned drivers to avoid traveling through the water.
“When we ask you not to drive in certain places, don’t do it,” Becker said. “We had people driving past the barricades (on Indigo). But I didn’t issue any tickets.”
Around the county
Becker said he was out Saturday morning to check the impact of the heavy rain.
“They were talking about evacuating people from the South Olive area of Peabody-it’s a floodplain,” Becker said.
Following a downpour, such as the one overnight Friday, the water rises at different times, Becker said.
“(On Saturday) I was able to drive through Florence to Stringtown,” Becker said. “But on Sunday afternoon, residents of Stringtown in Florence couldn’t get home.”
Becker was quick to praise the work of law enforcement over the weekend.
“I want to thank the local law enforcement and the highway patrol for their support during the high water,” Becker said. “We had some very important things happen, and we got through it without a tragedy. I’m very proud of everybody.”
Rising water at reservoir
Rising water affected campers at Marion Reservoir Saturday morning.
“We’ve had roughly a 3-foot rise in our water elevation,” said Terry Holt, lead park ranger for the Army Corp of Engineers at Marion Reservoir. “(The rising water level) did impact several dozen campsites.”
Those campsites were located in French Creek, Hillsboro and Cottonwood Point coves.
“The rangers on Saturday morning were very busy moving campers to campsites with higher elevations.”
Holt estimated about 40 campsites-about a quarter of the reservoir’s available sites-were evacuated.
The rising water level also required the help of maintenance workers.
“We had to disconnect certain electrical pedestals because their bases were becoming inundated,” Holt said. “To avoid any electrical hazards, we make sure they’re turned off and de-energized.”
De-energizing involves turning off at the main switch or breakers that affect certain campsites.
“We had all our rangers and maintenance people out doing those chores-moving campers, helping with campers’ refunds, removing certain electrical breakers, turning off electricity on certain affected campsites. We also picked up quite a few trash barrels to keep them from floating away.”
The water’s elevation at the reservoir was 1,353.36 feet, a foot lower than predicted, Holt said. Normal elevation is 1,350.50 feet.
“This wasn’t a big flood event for us,” Holt said. The floods of 1993 and 1995 were much more significant, he added.
Holt said he didn’t know what impact the rain would have on the toxic algae problem at the lake.
“Certainly that much water going through will flush some of the lake, but what effect that will have, we’ll have to wait and see,” he said.
Impact at Hillsboro, Marion
The heavy rain caused a number of problems in Hillsboro, according to City Administrator Steven Garrett.
“There was a lot of water, and a lot of folks with serious basement problems,” Garrett said.
Garrett said he’s heard reports of 10 inches in town.
“This is the most water I’ve seen,” said Garrett, who moved to Hillsboro four years ago. “My backyard is one of those natural drainage points, and it’s the most I’ve seen come through there.”
At Willow Glen, the subdivision on the south edge of Hillsboro, residents experienced an electrical outage early Saturday around 3 a.m. because the electric switch gear for the development was under water.
“The electricity went out in that whole area south,” Garrett said. “(Workers) did get Parkside Homes and Carriage Hills isolated, so they could serve them.”
Electricity for Willow Glen residents wasn’t restored until 8 a.m. No electricity meant no sump pumps were not working, resulting in wet basements.
Both the west and south ends of Hillsboro experienced water drainage problems, Garrett said.
“Places where we usually have trouble, we were having the same problem,” Garrett said.
One area affected was the West Winds housing development.
“Thursday night, when the rain started, I drove through there and it wasn’t very bad at all. I think the field was soaking up quite a bit of that water.
“By Saturday morning, it was back to being pretty full. The development was creating some ponding in different areas, which is kind of alarming to me.”
Water covered Ash Street by the golf course.
“We put some cones out there,” Garrett said. “I don’t think that’s happened in a long time. We just had an extraordinarily large amount of water.”
The rainfall had less of an effect at Marion. City Administration David Mayfield estimated only about 31/2 inches fell at Marion.
“We didn’t have any problems from it at all, other than it got the ground wet,” Mayfield said.