PEORIA, Ill. — Volunteers piled sandbags Thursday along the rising Illinois River but authorities said that there was little they could do to save two towns where floodwaters reached the rooftops of houses.
Water spilling from the Illinois threatened the region with its worst flooding in history.
The towns of Rome and Liverpool were "lost to any flood-fighting efforts," Greg Durham, spokesman for the Emergency Services and Disaster Agency, said.
"There is little that can be done," he said. "The towns are completely evacuated."
The river stood at 28.4 feet Thursday--still shy of the record 28.8 set in 1943. But the National Weather Service estimated that it will crest at 29.5 feet by Saturday.
"We really sympathize with those who are close to the river," one Peoria office worker said. "The view is beautiful near there, but it has to be like a bad dream for them today."
Light rain fell across most of the Illinois River basin Thursday morning, and the National Weather Service said that an additional half-inch was possible by today.
Peoria meteorologist Rod Palmer said that the additional rainfall on already saturated ground would have little effect on the rampaging river. However, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokesman Angelo Zerbonia said that any new rainfall over the river valley "sure isn't going to help the situation. It just prolongs the agony."
More Than 1,100 Homeless
More than 1,100 persons were homeless in the flooding, which has stopped barge traffic along the waterway and knocked out municipal sewage treatment plants.
Health officials said that they feared raw sewage flowing into the river could trigger disease.
Chris Lofgren, a spokesman for the American Red Cross, said that most of the displaced families were finding their own shelter and that the Red Cross was helping the rest.
"As long as the river keeps going up the worst is yet to come," Lofgren said.