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Flooding Along Illinois River Prompts Evacuations In Utica


CHICAGO (CBS) -- Flooding has triggered evacuations of homes along the Illinois River in Utica, near Starved Rock State Park.

The Utica Fire Department began helping people move to dry and safe places on Tuesday, a day after heavy rains inundated the area.

Utica Mayor Matt Jereb said about 20 to 25 residents live in the southern portion of the town, where flooding on the Illinois River was having the biggest impact.

"Over the past few days, we've been watching it very closely, and as of yesterday morning, we were getting reports of projections that we're going to start having water inside people's buildings," he said.

The same area had severe flooding in 2008 and 2013, and most residents who lived in that area left after the last big flood.

So far, no water has been reported inside buildings in Utica yet, but the National Weather Service has said the Illinois River is already more than 8 feet above flood stage, and is expected to rise several more inches, and crest sometime Wednesday night.

Jereb said Tuesday's evacuations were carried out as a precaution, because of the potential for flooding to overtake the first floors of several homes and businesses.

"We are optimistic that the weather continues to improve, and rainfalls are light," he said.

The mayor said lots of variables are still in play, including what happens over the next few days, with the remnants of Tropical Storm Bill expected to move through Illinois later this week.

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