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Du Quoin under water: Two storms within 15 hours inundate city and nearby county

  • Main Street Du Quoin at Division Street.

    Main Street Du Quoin at Division Street.
    Devan Vaughn photo

  • Looking down Illinois Avenue from Olive Street.

    Looking down Illinois Avenue from Olive Street.
    Courtesy of Mary Furlow

  • Nik Patel's photo out his windshield of water looking southbound on Washington Street.

    Nik Patel's photo out his windshield of water looking southbound on Washington Street.
    Courtesy of Nik Patel

  • The in-ground pool in Vicki Moss Spencer's backyard got a lot bigger on Friday.

    The in-ground pool in Vicki Moss Spencer's backyard got a lot bigger on Friday.
    Courtesy of Vicki Moss Spencer

  • Angry water going over the spillway at City Lake.

    Angry water going over the spillway at City Lake.
    Courtesy of Jean Gallmeister Bullock

  • West Street in Du Quoin.

    West Street in Du Quoin.
    Courtesy of Joseph Fronek

  • A section of the football field at Du Quoin High School, showing where the rubber separated from the concrete.

    A section of the football field at Du Quoin High School, showing where the rubber separated from the concrete.
    Jodee Harmon photo

  • The drainage ditch beside Amy's house.

    The drainage ditch beside Amy's house.
    Courtesy of Amy Porter James

By Renee Trappe
updated: 7/21/2021 12:51 PM

Du Quoin is still cleaning up and drying out from the 4 to 7 inches of rain that fell on Perry County overnight Thursday and Friday afternoon, throwing the city into confusion and turning normal side streets into hazardous water traps for unsuspecting vehicles.

In what might have been the worst rainfall in modern memory, the city's first responders, streets department and city hall were inundated with calls for emergency rescues, flooded basements, blocked roadways and the like.

No fatalities were reported in Perry County. According to the National Weather Service in Paducah, one fatality was reported near Woodlawn, west of Mount Vernon in Jefferson County, when a vehicle was pulled into the rushing floodwaters of Rayse Creek.

According to NWS meteorologist Mike York, Friday afternoon's flooding was round 2 of an event that started with significant rainfall between midnight and 6 a.m. By the time the heavy rains started later Friday, the ground was saturated and the water had no place to go.

"We issued flash flood warnings at 3:25 p.m. for Perry, Jefferson and parts of Jackson and Franklin," York said. "We started getting reports of major flooding around 4 p.m., on Route 51 north of Du Quoin.

York said Du Quoin was on the edge of the heaviest rain, which fell north of the city. In roughly 15 hours, Tamaroa recorded 7 inches of rain, while Pinckneyville had 5.23 inches. Du Quoin does not have a weather station and so relies on observers to give them rain totals, York said, which he could not immediately find.

Mayor Guy Alongi posted on Facebook that the city received around 7 inches of rain. He said the phones "rang off the hook," and praised the streets and water departments, City Hall administration and Du Quoin's first responders who attended to endless calls and emergencies.

"You did your jobs in a professional manner and attended to the problems at hand," Alongi wrote. "As an elected official I appreciate your hard work and dedication ... I am proud to serve alongside all of you."

He also thanked Vision Church of Du Quoin "for serving lunch to all the workers today. Your thoughtfulness and kindness is greatly appreciated."

Fire Chief Dave Durkota said 911 dispatch was inundated with calls for assistance, a lot of them from people whose vehicles were disabled in high water, but who were otherwise OK.

"Our focus was drivers who were trapped in their vehicles," Durkota said, as well as helping the police with traffic management -- to keep more vehicles from driving into deep water and getting into trouble.

Thankfully, he said, none of the drivers stuck were in mortal danger from rapidly moving water, but they were concerned they could not exit their cars safely.

"It was perfectly understandable," Durkota said, saying most drivers were debating whether to attempt to get out, or to stay put.

All the city workers were extremely busy trying to triage the real emergencies from the incidents of cars that were abandoned in water and just need a tow, he said.

"We were pulled in a lot of directions," Durkota said. "I personally don't have any recollection of another storm with the (amount) of water that fell on Friday."

Repairs are going to be needed to the football field and baseball fields at Du Quoin High School, where the artificial turf drainage systems were overwhelmed, according to Superintendent Matt Hickam.

Under normal rainfall, water drains quickly from the fields. On Friday, however, the water drained until it "hit the point where it couldn't go anywhere because the system was full of water," Hickam said.

That not only left water standing on the fields, but sent air bubbles back up to the surface, which lifted whole sections of turf and damaged the rubber base, he said. On Monday, a contactor was expected to assess the damage.

The middle school baseball program had to cancel a camp it was holding this week, and football players went on the road for a 7 on 7 instead of doing home workouts, Hickam added. But he doesn't anticipate the damage will affect the regular season.

"It could have been worse," Hickam said Monday. The high school had some water coming up through floor drains, but it quickly went back down again.

York, with the NWS, said thunderstorms are the usual culprits for flash flooding and by their very nature are hard to predict. "We knew that heavy rain had occurred the previous night into the early morning, and we were concerned when we saw heavy rain headed for Perry County," he said.

It's an impressive event when more than three inches of rain falls within 24 hours, he added.

Now, however, the region is breaking out of the pattern and the NWS is forecasting dry weather for the next three days or so, York said.

Thank you, first responders

Du Quoin residents left their impressions on Mayor Guy Alongi's Facebook page.

Vickie Morrow: "It is unfortunate people don't understand there is not much you can do to fight water. Just be smart and stay out of it in times like these so you don't have to be towed. Thank you (first responders) for putting up with ungrateful callers."

Jana Kaye Kuhnert: "We did our best to keep our visitors with NubAbility Athletics safe and postponed our benefit to last night. I'm amazed at our town. So thankful for our city workers!"

Kendra Carson: "Also, to the volunteers that helped push vehicles out of the roads."

Carol Harrison: "(It was) really bad, but so glad I live in Du Quoin. Thanks to all who helped out."

Blanca Orta-Kuberski: "Thank you all for your hard work! May God bless you all for being out there keeping our community safe!"

Donna Fitzpatrick Reynolds: "A big thank you to all first responders. I am retired and did not have to get out but it did get worse about the time people were leaving work."

• Our thanks to everyone who posted photos on the Du Quoin Call Facebook page. Visit our page to see them for yourself.

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