The National Weather Service in Lincoln reported Thursday morning that Pekin and surrounding areas have seen 3 to 5 inches of rain since Sunday.

“As opposed to areas further south and east, where totals have been around an inch or less, counties in central Illinois have been in the bull’s-eye of the heavy rain,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Chuck Schaffer.

Schaffer said there is a chance of light rain over the next few days. He expects the next large weather system to arrive in central Illinois next week and anticipates the new system will dump as much as an inch of rain onto the area’s landscape and roads. The Illinois River in Peoria and Pekin is already above its flood stage and water levels are expected to rise through the weekend.

“For the Illinois River, the closest gauge we have would be Peoria,” said Schaffer. “The flood stage (in Peoria) is 18 feet. The current stage is 20.2 feet. It’s already above flood stage, and it’s still going to go up several more feet. As we head into the weekend, it looks like it will be cresting at about 27 1/2 feet around Sunday. (Pekin) would be very close as far as the crest, the timing and how high the water is at that location.”

The flooding forced the city of Pekin to close the boat ramp at Pekin Riverfront Park Wednesday morning. Brett Olson, assistant operations supervisor for the city of Pekin Street and Solid Waste Department, said the closure is due to hazardous boating conditions resulting from the rapidly rising river. He believes the ramp will remain closed for two to four weeks.

“Once it all goes down, then we do the process of cleaning everything up, which is a daunting task because a lot of the driftwood gets stuck up there,” he added. “Then we have to sweep it, then make it safe for everybody to use again.”

It is a well-established fact that heavy rain leads to wet roads, and wet roads create hazardous driving conditions. According to Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) spokesman Guy Tridgell, the agency is continuously monitoring roads adjacent to areas that have the potential to flood. IDOT has also posted a list of emergency road closures at www.idot.illinois.gov.

“That’s updated constantly, and it will be updated constantly going forward,” said Tridgell.

Tridgell urged motorists to exercise the usual caution they would employ for wet driving conditions and particularly to avoid driving through standing water.

“If there’s standing water, even if it appears to be just a couple of inches, please don’t attempt to drive through it or walk through it,” he said. “It might appear to be standing water, but in many cases it’s moving and can move very quickly and very powerfully. It just takes a few inches to sweep away a car or a person. We’ve told people constantly to turn around, but don’t drown. Standing water is nothing to take lightly.”

Olson said the Pekin Street and Solid Waste Department currently has a full crew cleaning debris from the catch basins that water from the streets drains into. He joined Tridgell in advising motorists to avoid roads that have standing water.

“If there’s water across the road, I’d advise (motorists) to turn around,” he added. “You just have to use your judgement. If it’s across the road and deep, I would turn around.”

Local areas that motorists should avoid are Koch Street and the roads near Riverway Business Park, according to Olson, because those areas tend to get a lot of runoff from adjacent fields. He also cautioned drivers to avoid Front Street near the Waste Water Treatment Plant.

“I don’t know why anybody would need to go down there,” Olson said. “(The city is) going to be in sandbagging mode or close to it for the next couple of days with the river rising. Motorists shouldn’t move barricades. It’s a dangerous situation down there, and we don’t want anybody to get into it. We’ve had problems with people moving barricades, and we don’t advise that at all due to safety concerns.”