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McHenry residents battle wall of water after rainstorms

Published: Friday, April 26, 2013 3:00 p.m. CDT • Updated: Saturday, April 27, 2013 12:13 a.m. CDT
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McHENRY – Pauline Applegate’s home easily could be mistaken for a houseboat.

Only 3 feet of muddy ground and a wall of sandbags separate her home from the encroaching Fox River.

Her home, on Russet Drive in McHenry, is one of more than 300 homes that have been affected by last week’s heavy rainstorms.

“It’s been a very difficult time,” she said. “I’ve never seen water like this.”

Applegate estimates that 5,000 sandbags separate her home from the wall of water. The bags, weighing more than 70 pounds each, are stacked eight high for at least 25 yards.

“One day I was so tired I couldn’t carry another sandbag,” she said. “But you have to do what you have to do to save your house.”

Applegate said the week-and-a-half-long effort has been overwhelming, but she credits Nunda Township and many volunteers for saving her home.

“We would never have been able to do this without the township,” she said. “There’s no way. They worked around the clock.”

But Applegate’s home could be considered one of the lucky ones.

“It’s my understanding that certain people had to be evacuated,” said Mary Ann O’Hara, who lives a few houses down from Applegate. “We saw a flurry of moving trucks.”

O’Hara’s house is one of the newer homes in the area and is designed to handle floodwaters, she said, but the house behind O’Hara’s was surrounded by water on all sides Friday.

“They’ve been getting there by a rowboat,” she said.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources anticipates the Fox River could take up to two weeks to return to below flood stage levels, assuming there is no additional rainfall.

When water levels do recede, Applegate and others will be left with the daunting task of cleaning up after one of the worst floods in 100 years.

“The cleanup … I can’t imagine it. The sandbags are going to be so heavy because they’re wet,” Applegate said. “My neighbor and I are thinking about having a barbecue to get people to come back and help clean up.”

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