Unknown creek roars to flood Cherry Valley homes
The unassuming little creek behind Bob Zadek’s house never caused a problem.
Most of the time, he didn’t really think about it.
Nor did some of his neighbors, who until this week didn’t even know its name.
But Madigan Creek awoke with a vengeance early Tuesday, flooding the Valley Ridge subdivision under several feet of water.
It was still rushing violently mid-morning as Zadek surveyed the damage to his home of nine years on Mike’s Place.
Water from the creek and the Kishwaukee River collided to create treacherous conditions for neighborhood residents before dawn on Tuesday. Fire and police officials evacuated more than 40 people and condemned two homes, one of which suffered a gas leak, in the area.
Village Hall became a makeshift shelter for evacuees all morning, with the Red Cross doling out water, food and supply packets and talking to residents about what happened. Officials let people go back to Valley Ridge shortly after 9 a.m.
That’s when people like Zadek saw the full extent of the damage.
He estimated that the creek overflowed sometime around 2 a.m. That’s when his family heard the crash of water in the basement.
"The door caved in because of the pressure," Zadek said. "It sounded like a cannon went off. Then we had a swimming pool in the basement."
The water crept up the basement stairs, one step from the living room. A muddy line marks the level on the living room wall leading up the stairway.
Zadek said his was the third home built in the subdivision, and he’s never had a problem with the creek before. He was most disappointed that the water destroyed family videos from the holidays and local sporting events.
"That hurts the worst," Zadek said.
In Cherry Valley, Valley Ridge sustained the most damage. Fire officials helped rescue residents by boat from Mike’s Place, Brooke’s Way Lane and Valley Woods Drive.
Residents flung open the doors of several cars along neighborhood streets Tuesday in an attempt to dry out interiors damaged by water.
Village workers closed Mill Road a few blocks into the village because water had started to erode the street near the railroad tracks.
Thunder and lightening awoke Suzanne and Steven Harkey, who live along Mike’s Place, at about 2:30 a.m.
Water had started seeping in the basement, so the couple tried to gather belongings and move them to higher ground.
But it wasn’t until Suzanne Harkey heard what sounded like an explosion, which shattered her windows and ripped her basement door of its hinges, that her panic really set in.
"I was hysterical," said Suzanne, who sat inside the Village Hall Tuesday morning wearing a sweatshirt and sweatpants. Steven wore a T-shirt and shorts and luckily had an extra pair of tennis shoes in the truck.
"Our house was gone in a half-hour."
The Harkeys were able to drive their truck away from the neighborhood, but Suzanne’s 2005 Volvo was ruined. The Harkey home was one of two homes condemned in the subdivision.
Despite the devastation, Suzanne expressed concern for her neighbors and was thankful that everyone made it out unharmed.
"Who cares? What does it all matter?" Suzanne said. "All I could think about were (my neighbors)."
Officials also condemned Jim and Rosalie Nichols’ home on Mike’s Place. Jim Nichols clutched the leash of his beagle, Tucker, as he sat in Village Hall Tuesday morning, awaiting word on his home’s condition.
Jim knew there was a problem when the machine that helps him breathe while sleeping lost power between 2 and 3 a.m. on Tuesday. Then he heard the boom from the Harkey home, and he and his wife started assessing the damage.
"We heard that noise, and we thought a tree fell and hit the house," Jim said. "Then we saw the dining room chairs floating."
Jim said he and his wife just bought a new refrigerator that officials told him was also floating away from the wall because the water was so high. Their new Toyota Highlander that was parked in the garage is also likely totaled.
Village President Jim Claeyssen said he spoke with Winnebago County Board Chairman Scott Christiansen Tuesday morning about declaring Cherry Valley a state of an emergency to assist with federal and state funding.
The rain gauge at Baumann Park showed that the village received about 8 inches of rain, Claeyssen said.
Pieces of yellow caution tape were still attached to mailboxes throughout the Valley Ridge subdivision. Officials marked homes with the tape if they were able to evacuate the residents who lived there.
Fire Chief Craig Wilt said first-responders waded through 5 to 6 feet of water in the streets to rescue residents. Some citizens, who tried to leave in their vehicles, had to be rescued, too.
Fire officials used boats to float down the streets and rescue people. Belvidere and Kirkland fire departments also sent over inflatable boats, but Wilt said those didn’t need to be used.
About 40 people were evacuated in total, and Wilt said about 30 homes sustained damage.
"The dollar loss here is going to be big," Wilt said.
Wilt said Tuesday’s response went smoothly, saying incidents like the flood are what the department prepares for. He said officials will continue to man the Valley Ridge subdivision in case looters try to hit the damaged homes.
Staff writer Melissa Westphal can be reached at 815-544-3452 or email@example.com.