1952: The Fox River Was Acting Up Again

 

Ice up to the floor of the bridge

ARMY ASKED TO USE DYNAMITE ON ICE GORGE AT DAYTON DAM1
Bridge Endangered as River Continues Rise
Families Flee as Water Enters Homes
Power Plant is Shut Down

BULLETIN!

Kenneth Short, superintendent of construction of the Illinois Division of Waterways, arrived at Dayton today to make a survey of the flood situation. He informed State Rep. J. Ward Smith this afternoon he would confer immediately with other engineers on the advisability of using dynamite or some other method to break the ice gorge.

The flood situation at Dayton, caused by a huge ice gorge in the Fox River, was described as very serious today, and the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers was asked to consider the matter of dynamiting the jammed slush ice.

The ice gorge went down slightly last night at 8, then rose again today, and water flowed over the road at the east side of the bridge below the dam. Ice reached the floor of the bridge, which is in danger of being washed out or badly damaged due to the intense pressure against it. At 9:30 today the water had risen to the top of the dam, above the floor of the bridge and the power plant of the North Counties Hydro-Electric Company was put out of commission.

Water completely surrounded several of the numerous cottages on the east bank of the river, both above and below the bridge. Basements of some of the homes were flooded and water had risen above the ground level floors of others. Many of the families moved out their furniture as the water continued to rise.

Move Furniture

At the Frank Kossow Jr., home water was over the floor and half way to the windows. Furniture from this house was moved last night to the nearby home of Frank Kossow Sr., which was on higher ground. This morning the water had reached the front steps of the latter’s home and had entered the basement. Mrs. Frank Kossow Jr., and her two sons, 5 and 3 years old, have gone to Peru to reside temporarily with her mother until the flood danger is over. Her husband was called back from Chicago where he was attending a convention. Frank Kossow Sr. is vacationing in Florida.

The H. T. Mossbarger house south of the road leading to the bridge was completely surrounded, and water threatened to enter the house. The Mossbargers, who have an 8-year-old son, piled up their furniture to protect it from damage and moved out last night.

North of the road an unoccupied summer cottage owned by George Farnsworth, county engineer, was moved from its foundation, and was tilted at an angle. The water there was nearly to the windows. The Harlan Kossow home also was surrounded by water, which at 10 today was within a foot of the floor.

Auto Submerged

An automobile owned by Ted Mathews in the yard near his home was almost completely submerged.

Water was up to the front door of the Larry Marta home. Marta is at Ft. Benning, Ga., attending a National Guard training school. His wife and their four-month-old baby moved out last night, and are residing temporarily at the home of her husband’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Dom Marta, Illinois Avenue.

The fire in the furnace at the home of Mrs. John Murphy was extinguished as water entered the basement. The family of Roy Murphy moved out as water entered their home. Another home threatened with flood damage was that of Bernard Hackler, who is employed in Ottawa by Scherer’s.

The Clyde Jeffries family left their home as the river continued to rise, and they were unable to return as the roadway leading to the house became submerged to a depth of four feet. This morning water had risen to within seven inches of the floor of the William Campbell home. The Robert Kennedy home was another which was flooded.

There are approximately 15 homes, with about 35 occupants, in the flooded area on the east side of the river.

Damaged in 1943

Robert Kennedy said today that in a similar flood in 1943, caused by an ice gorge, the river rose to about the same height that prevailed this morning. At that time the bridge was moved a couple of inches and cracks were caused in the foundation. The present bridge replaced a steel structure that collapsed in 1940 under the weight of a truck and automobile which were crossing it.

The drop in the level of the ice gorge last night apparently was due to the closing of the gates at the Starved Rock dam, causing a rise in the level of both the Illinois and Fox Rivers, and the subsequent opening of the gates, resulting in sudden dropping of the level. This action was taken at the request of George Farnsworth, county superintendent of highways. Dropping of the level presumably broke open a channel for the gorged Fox River ice. A new pileup of ice, however, in the river cause the water to rise again.

State Rep. J. Ward Smith was contacted by Dayton area residents at 3 a. m. today after the river resumed its rise. Rep. Smith telephoned to Tom Casey, chief engineer of the division of waterways, Illinois Department of Public Works and Buildings, and urged his cooperation in coping with the critical situation at Dayton. He also notified state police, who promised their assistance. After conferring with Casey, Rep. Smith notified the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, and asked their assistance. Smith suggested that dynamite be used to open a channel.

H. McGrogan, superintendent of the North Counties Hydro-Electric plant, said this morning that the water was 24-25 feet above normal below the dam, which is 26 feet in height from base to crest. There were two feet of water on the floor of the hydro-electric plant. McGrogan said the water was still slightly below what it was on the occasion of the last gorge, but he predicted it would go higher because of the enormous amount of ice still coming over the dam. He described the bridge situation as serious, due to the tremendous pressure against the structure.


  1. Ottawa Republican-Times, January 30, 1952, p 1

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