Flooding forces curfew in Watseka as Iroquois River rises

WATSEKA, Ill. (AP) — The mayor of the eastern Illinois city of Watseka has issued a local disaster emergency and daily curfews from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. until Monday due to flooding in a 60-square-block area, Mayor Bob Harwood said Wednesday.

Floodwaters from the Iroquois River and Sugar Creek are converging where the waterways meet at Watseka. About 50 people have evacuated their homes and are staying at a Red Cross shelter at a local church. City police are patrolling in boats at night, the mayor said.

"Streets are closed and houses are surrounded by water," Harwood said.

City agencies are open 24 hours a day and police are working 12-hour shifts, Harwood said. Access to Watseka is restricted and the Illinois Department of Transportation has set up detours around the city.

The National Weather Service reported Wednesday that the Iroquois River was at 18.66 feet after reaching a high of 23 feet on Sunday. Flood stage is 18 feet.

Other rivers in Illinois are under flood warnings as well including the Illinois River, Kankakee River, Little Wabash River and Sangamon River.

Watseka officials are putting together a recovery plan that Harwood said will be ready when the water recedes and families can return to their homes. Officials didn't immediately have the number of affected homes.

"Our water is going down very slowly," Harwood said. "It's going to be a while before we get rid of it."

Watseka is about 90 miles south of Chicago in Iroquois County and has about 5,200 residents.