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Flooding Damages Roads, Wrecks Basements Across McLean County

Interstate 55 closure
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Interstate 55 was closed early Saturday near McLean, the Mt. Hope-Funks Grove Fire Protection District reported, due to damage caused by flooding.
Updated: June 26, 2021 at 1:20 PM CDT
There is a tornado watch in effect for McLean, Woodford, and Tazewell counties until 7 p.m. Saturday, according to the National Weather Service.

A flood warning is in effect for McLean County until Saturday afternoon, after a downpour brought 4 to 7 inches of rain and quickly flooded area roads, according to the National Weather Service.

Severe thunderstorms moved through central Illinois on Friday evening, prompting storm warnings and at one point a tornado warning for southern McLean and Tazewell counties and northern Dewitt County. Alerts included the possibility of 60 mph winds and rotation in storm cells.

Concerns quickly shifted to flooding. Water remained high in some locations early Saturday and was impacting area roads.

The McLean County Area EMS System saw more than 100 calls for service during the 12-hour period surrounding the storm. The system averages 60 calls per day.

"We had multiple water rescues, working structure fires and our regular call volume as well," the EMS System said on Facebook. "It demonstrates the true dedication these responders have for our communities."

Impassable roads

As of 8:30 a.m. Saturday, the McLean County Emergency Management Agency said roads in the southern part of the county that abut creeks or the Mackinaw River are closed, with water running over the pavement; those roads are to be avoided.

Interstate 55 was initially closed from McLean to the Shirley exit. Southbound I-55 reopened just after 11 a.m. Saturday, and northbound I-55 will soon be open, according to the Mt. Hope-Funks Grove Fire Protection District.

The Illinois Department of Transportation worked to clear the highway and and assess damage to pavement caused by the flooding.

Meanwhile, Towanda Barnes Road at U.S. 150 is closed because of gravel debris covering that intersection. Old Route 51 is closed from Heyworth to Route 350 as well as many other country roads south of Heyworth, said EMA, adding most of the impact is in the southern portion of the county where the path of the storms was strongest.

Other impacts included:

  • A dive team from Hudson was activated to help a stranded motorist around Interstate 55 near Shirley.
  • Three people were stranded after their car became stalled in high water near LeRoy.
  • Another vehicle was stalled on Interstate 55 south of the Market Street exit.

“If you encounter flooding, turn around. Never drive through flooded roadways,” the weather service tweeted about 9 p.m.

In Bloomington, Public Works had crews working overnight responding to flooded streets and intersections. Street sweepers are removing debris and mud from the streets that were engulfed. Bloomington Police and Fire responded to stranded and abandoned vehicles throughout the area. Bloomington Fire Department said it responded to 111 calls with over 15 vehicle rescues due to flooding.

In Normal, Parks and Rec crews were working to clean up a large tree that fell on Constitution Trail near Underwood Park. People were urged to avoid that area.

During some parts of Saturday evening, the weather service termed it a "life-threatening" situation.

The Normal Fire Department also noted widespread flooding of streets in the town and urged people to avoid driving in the dark.

“The water is nearly invisible until you are in it,” said the NFD.

A flash flood warning was in effect for the region until roughly 3 a.m.

There also are numerous reports of homeowners experiencing significant water in basements around the Twin Cities.

More rain was expected on Saturday. Additional rainfall amounts of 1 to 3 inches with locally higher amounts are expected to fall onto already saturated soil from recent heavy rains, NWS reported. This may result in flash flooding, especially in low-lying and flood prone areas.

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