Rising river levels lead to emergency flooding response

WINNEBAGO & STEPHENSON COUNTY, Ill. (WIFR) ---- With the Pecatonica and Rock Rivers reaching dangerously high levels throughout the region, rescue crews are braving the current to get residents out as quickly as possible.

"The sense of urgency has increased, and at this point, we need to know exactly who's going to be left in their homes. There are no mandatory evacuations at this point but we need to know who wants to stay and who wants to come out," said Freeport Fire Chief Todd Allen.

For some rescuers, this is the some of the worst they've ever seen.

"This one's a little bit different from the aspect that the water is coming up a lot quicker and it's much deeper," said Allen.

As a result, Winnebago County is reaching out to Springfield for help.

"As chairman, I will be issuing an Emergency Disaster Declaration for Winnebago County and will be asking Gov. Pritzker and his team, as well as IEMA to assist in this disaster declaration," said Winnebago County Board Chairperson Frank Haney.

An emergency press conference highlighted the severity of the issue for those still in their homes.

"If you're seeing water around your home today, you're going to see water in your home tomorrow. The water's still rising, it's rising by the hour. We would much rather see you evacuate today so that you have more time," said Rep. John Cabello (R-68th)

While mandatory evacuations have yet to be issued, officials say you're at your own risk if you stay.

"You're taking your own safety into your own hands here. You know, this is a dire situation; I've had people that have lived here for years... Charles Hilton, who is 82 years old, that's lived here on this side his whole life, that this is the worst he's ever seen," said Freeport City Manager Lowell Crow.

"Our hearts go out to those families who are displaced by flood waters and those struggling to save their property. It is an extreme hardship to all those impacted," said Haney.