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Warner Bridge Closed Due to Damage From Spring Flooding

Steve S.

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While fishing yesterday at the Kankakee, I brought up the topic of when the Warner Bridge had to be closed for reconstruction due to an early spring flood before the ice was out. This was many years ago (maybe 30 or 35?) and my Dad drove us out to the river to witness the flooding. I remember ice floes being jammed underneath the bridge girders. When it was all done, the steel beams were bent from the force of the flow! I've searched the internet a little to see if I can find any history of this event, but have had no luck.


Anyone else out there recall this happening?

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My parents might remember that more than I would.

Here's a little history about that area:


Those bridge pilings?


They were built with the intention of building a railroad, but the railroad went bankrupt and it subsequently didn't get built.

The rest is history.


Speaking of which-

I did an ISA meeting some time ago on the history of the Kankakee River.

I'm putting something similar together for all major flows of Illinois, in a PowerPoint format.

Will share it in a new post when its done.

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My parents might remember that more than I would.


I spoke to my brother, who only vaguely remembered this happening. This puzzled me because he remembers just about everything. I thought maybe I was cracking up, but then I checked with my Dad and he recounted the story as I remember it, adding that there were large chunks of the ice floes stuck up in the trees once the water receded. This was a few weeks later, but the ice was very thick and the temperature cold enough that they did not immediately melt. He seemed to think it might have happened in very early spring or even February. In any event, it was freakish. I thought for sure that flooding of that magnitude would be documented somewhere; maybe on microfiche in a library somewhere?

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Historical Crests

(1) 13.88 ft on 01/30/1968

(2) 12.83 ft on 02/25/1985

(3) 12.78 ft on 01/21/1974

(4) 12.07 ft on 03/08/1979

(5) 11.76 ft on 12/17/1972

(6) 11.57 ft on 02/01/1949

(7) 11.40 ft on 07/13/1957

(8) 11.39 ft on 03/03/1950

(9) 10.94 ft on 02/10/1965

(10) 10.83 ft on 02/19/1951


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Maybe this was the date, but I thought I was much younger when it happened:


"This was the case during February 1982 in Wilmington, Illinois, along the Kankakee River. An ice jam formed on the upstream side of the Route 53 bridge, and this forced the water to flow at higher levels around the bridge and through the town."


"ESDA estimated that the total damages were $6.9 million due to damages to public bridges, sewers, buildings, and roads. The estimated analyzed losses for Kankakee County are of interest. These

include: 1) $750,000 to the Kankakee State Park, 2) $125,000 due to damages at other Kankakee Valley state parks, 3) $80,000 to roads near Momence, 4) $75,000 to retaining walls at Momence, 5) $60,000 to buildings at Momence, 6) $75,000 to Iroquois River homes, 7) $60,000 to the river road along the Iroquois, and 8) $60,000 to farm fields. The total estimated loss due to the late February flooding along the Kankakee River, including the $6.9 million to public facilities, was $8.75 million."


"The only federal agency that experienced major impacts was the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps used two tug boats and a barge to help break up the ice jam on the Kankakee River in late February. A channel was cut north of Wilmington which helped lower the river level and remove the ice jam that had formed at a bridge."


"The rapidly rising water in the Wilmington area on 22 February along the Kankakee River necessitated the evacuation of 40 families on 24 February. Then, a second ice jam caused 85 to be evacuated along the Kankakee River downstream from Wilmington on 1 Mar."


"The four factors that produced the spring 1982 flooding in Illinois were: 1) the antecedent precipitation and the heavy snowfall, 2) snow cover, 3) soil moisture, and 4) ice jams. In the broadest sense, the floods of winter-spring 1982 were a result of two weather conditions: above normal precipitation over several months, and below normal winter temperatures. Collectively, these acted to create the identified four factors. The ongoing trend to colder and wetter climatic conditions (Changnon, 1981) will likely bring more such flooding than in prior years. The fourth factor influencing the 1982 flooding was the ice cover on the rivers and the development of ice jams, such as occurred in the Kankakee River near Wilmington in late February. The near record low temperatures for two months led to considerable ice cover. The thickness of ice on the Illinois River at Peoria was at an all time record of 20 inches."


I guess the world was ending back then too.

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