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Gov. Quinn tours flood damage as cleanup continues

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Updated: May 22, 2013 7:18AM

Gov. Pat Quinn toured flood-damaged areas through the Fox River Valley in the west suburbs on Saturday and declared four more counties disaster areas.

“It’s not over yet,” Quinn said as he looked onto the Fox River from a park trail in North Aurora where water had stood waist-high a day earlier. “We know we have an enormous challenge here.”

Saturday brought the Chicago area a break from the rain and, in some places, icy precipitation of recent days.

But the governor warned that rivers in the Chicago area and downstate remain at high levels and said flooding is particularly a risk along the Des Plaines, Illinois, Rock and Mississippi rivers. He noted that some areas are getting worse because water levels continue to rise, especially in Peoria and other downstream communities along the Illinois River and its tributaries.

“We have to be very careful with flood water in our rivers,” he said. “Tributaries are swollen as well. Rivers like the Fox can be very dangerous.”

Cook, DuPage, Will, Kane and Kendall are among the counties that have been declared disaster areas, a designation needed to receive state resources and to begin the process of applying for possible federal aid. Quinn urged people to save receipts for damage and cleanup costs to help with the application process.

For many, Saturday’s break from the rain was welcome, but cleanup work continued.

Dressed in waders and boots, people came to Plainfield Township’s Grand Prairie School, a collection point for needed supplies thanks to organizer Tom Hug, a Mokena firefighter, and school principal Janan Szurek.

By noon Saturday, the school gym was filled with donated bleach, paper towels, cleaning cloths, food, clothing, linens and toys. For those who didn’t hear about it or couldn’t make it to the school, volunteers loaded a school bus and delivered the supplies to people’s homes.

“Look, Mom! We can make sandwiches,” a boy said as he picked up bread, peanut butter and jelly while his mom filled a bucket with sponges and window cleaner.

Shelley Lyles loaded her car with soap, bleach and paper towels.

“I’m still in a ‘what-do-I-do-now’ mode,” said Lyles.

She and her family have lived in their house in the 3000 block of Harris Drive since August after gutting and remodeling it. On Saturday, her husband was tearing things up again after 18 inches of water filled the house.

Larry Parks said he was looking for “help with the little things.” On Thursday, his above-ground pool was submerged, and he couldn’t see his four-foot fence. By Saturday, the water had receded so he could begin to throw out the contents of his garage and his house.

“The floors are black,” Parks said. “There’s nothing to save.”

Sheila Mack gratefully accepted snacks, water and cleaning products from the volunteers. But what she needed most was a place to stay in the neighborhood so her kids could get to school and her elderly father could have his hospital bed.

“I’ve never witnessed this, ever,” Mack said of the flooding.

She was looking to stay with friends or family, figuring it will be another week or longer before she can move back in after the lower portions of her quad-level home still had water on Satuday, forcing her to shut off the power.

Tom and Elizabeth Hug decided Friday to organize Saturday’s giveaway after driving around and seeing damage in the area.

“I cried several times, I was so overwhelmed,” Elizabeth Hug said. “We had to do something. We’re a small community, and we really pull together.”

Tom Hug was aiming to recruit volunteers to help people get their homes back in order. He made contact with Frank Bermudez at American Remodeling Contractor, who offered to help rebuild the home of a single mom.

“I can’t believe the outpouring of support,” Tom Hug said. “We will keep it up. We will see it through to the end.”

His 12-year-old daughter, Carolyn, volunteered to pass out the donations. People “could not stop saying ‘thank you,’ ” she said.

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