Hospital, homes evacuated amid flood threats in Illinois, elsewhere

Story highlights

  • "About half" of London Mills, Illinois, or 200 people, is evacuated, a police chief says
  • Flood warnings are in effect for parts of seven states as rivers and creeks rise
  • More than 600 flights are canceled in Chicago, which had its rainiest ever April day
  • A northern Illinois hospital, 2 mobile home parks in Illinois evacuated, an official says
Record-setting rains in parts of the Midwest have caused hundreds of flight cancellations and flooding, with one northern Illinois hospital evacuating patients due to rising floodwaters.
Forty-four patients were removed Thursday from Morris Hospital in Morris, Illinois, due to the threat of rising floodwaters from the nearby Illinois River that had already soaked the two-story facility's ground floor, said hospital spokeswoman Janet Long. Of those, 27 were transferred to other hospitals and 17 ended up going home or back to their nursing homes.
The evacuation was precautionary, Long said, adding that the hospital's emergency department will remain open Friday -- when the Illinois River is expected to crest around 7 a.m.
Along the same river about 25 miles west in Ottawa, a voluntary evacuation order has been issued for residents in the eastern part of that city, said LaSalle County emergency management official Connie Brooks. Some 100 people have already left two mobile home parks 10 miles farther west in Utica, she added.
Rising rivers are just one of the headaches tied to torrential rains in recent days. Back streets and highways have also been inundated by flash floods around Illinois, Indiana and elsewhere, while thousands of would-be air travelers have found themselves stranded.
In one 24-hour span reported Thursday afternoon -- at a time when heavy rain was continuing to fall -- some spots in the Chicago metropolitan area had seen nearly 7 inches of rain, according to the National Weather Service. To put that in perspective, the city averages 3.38 inches of precipitation for the entire month of April.
Wednesday was the sixth-wettest April day recorded at O'Hare International Airport. But that was just a taste: By 7 a.m., morning rain had already made Thursday the rainiest April day ever for Chicago.
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By Thursday night, most flash flood warnings for the region had been canceled. But parts of seven states had flood warnings, some of which extend until next week, due to concerns about creeks and rivers overflowing their banks.
The North Skunk River in Sigourney, Iowa, for example, was at 22.1 feet and rising at 7:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m. ET) Thursday -- well above the flood stage of 16 feet.
"About half the town" of London Mills -- which equates to about 200 people in the central Illinois community some 35 miles west of Peoria -- was evacuated Thursday as the Spoon River continues to rise well above flood stage, said the village's police Chief Scott Keithley. At least seven structures are flooded, and parts of Illinois Route 116 are underwater.
"This is the worst flooding I've seen," Keithley said.
And in Chicago, the Chicago River set a record when it crested at 8.57 feet, smashing the record of 7.86 feet set in 2008, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
The weather has also put a damper on many people's travel plans.
The Chicago Department of Aviation reported at one point Thursday that more than 600 flights had been canceled. The situation had improved somewhat by night's end, though, at which time the Federal Aviation Administration -- for seemingly the first time in days -- wasn't reporting significant delays at the city's O'Hare Airport.
American Airlines spokesman Matt Miller said severe weather is affecting its hubs not only in Chicago but also in Dallas/Fort Worth. American and American Eagle have canceled 413 flights on Thursday because of weather, he said.
And Southwest Airlines spokesman Chris Mainz cited delays and cancellations because of weather in Chicago and storms in other parts of the Midwest.