It took less than an hour for a flash flood to rip through Richie Boyden’s property on Monday, leaving a ravine of destruction in its wake.
“I never saw anything like it before,” said Boyden, who has lived at 5130 S. Illinois Route 2 for 30 years. “The water was running on both sides and through the garage like a river.”
Boyden and his son, Richard, recounted on Tuesday how the floodwaters rose and sped across the property on Monday morning.
“It started about 9 a.m.,” said Richard, who lives nearby. “Probably within an hour it did all this damage.”
That ‘damage’ included whisking away tons of soil and Richie’s 500-gallon propane tank and leaving a 6′ deep ravine.
“My LP tank is laying down in the bottom,” Richie said, referring to the bottom of the large ravine. “The neighbors could smell the propane coming from it.”
At 9:44 a.m., the Oregon Fire Protection District responded to a report of a propane tank on the verge of falling into a sinkhole.
“It [the propane tank] was in the sinkhole by the time we got there,” said Oregon Fire Chief Mike Knoup.
When firefighters arrived, there was swift water approximately 40 feet wide going across the driveway, Knoup said. Firefighters were unsure if the sinkhole had taken out the driveway. They also were concerned about making sure Richie was able to exit the home. He was evacuated through a neighboring property.
Oregon’s swift water team — firefighters trained to swim in class 4 rapids and to rescue victims from fast-moving water — then entered the flooded area where the propane tank line was located, Knoup said. The line had broken off and was leaking propane, so they had to shut it off, he said.
Richie said the water receded by evening, but now the task of assessing the damage and dealing with the insurance company has begun.
“We’ve been trying to work with the insurance company,” said Richard. “All the water runoff came from the farm fields.”
On Tuesday, there was less than 2 feet of water in the small waterway that runs just west of Richie’s garage. Bent grasses, shrubs, mud, and small trees could be seen alongside where the floodwaters traveled.
Monday’s flash flooding was caused by 9 to 12 inches of rain that fell across northwestern Illinois during a 48-hour period.
Illinois Route 73 just north of Pearl City remained closed in Stephenson County after floodwaters covered the state highway just north of the downtown area.
Pine Creek rose from its banks Monday causing officials at White Pines State Park to close off access to the park between the first and second fords. Access to the White Pines Lodge, which is located on higher ground, remained open.
The main entrance at Castle Rock State Park remains closed due to floodwaters damage. The boat launch facility, overlook area and south end trails remain open.
“Flood damage has made the small bridge/culvert on the main entrance road unsafe for traffic. Repairs are being coordinated,” posted Quentin Snook, site technician with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
Knoup said the incident at the Boyden property was the only flooding to which the fire district responded Monday. However, firefighters also responded to a downed tree on River Road and provided mutual aid for a house fire — possibly caused by a lightning strike — in Stillman Valley, he said.
“We urge extreme caution in flash flooding,” Knoup said. “People don’t understand the power of moving water.”
Knoup said people should not walk or drive through flooded areas. People also should keep an eye on their surroundings, especially if small creeks or waterways are nearby, because their water levels can rise quickly, he said.
Rock River water levels continued to rise on Tuesday as tributaries carrying the heavy rains fed into the river. On Tuesday morning, the Lee County Sheriff’s department reported that the buoy line marking the Dixon dam location had been broken and urged boaters to “please use caution.”
(Alexa Zoellner contributed to this story)