PEORIA, Ill. — The Illinois River, which has forced the evacuation of at least 1,700 residents and claimed four lives while approaching record flood levels, dropped slightly here Friday, giving river front towns the first hope in two weeks that the worst may be over.
The river peaked Thursday at 28.4 feet, its third-highest recorded level, then fell 1.2 inches by noon Friday, the Army Corps of Engineers said.
Residents who had spent days piling sandbags greeted the drop with relief, but health officials warned against possible disease caused by polluted river water.
Authorities also cautioned that the situation could worsen if heavy rain falls. The National Weather Service forecast a dry, sunny weekend for the Illinois River basin but said showers could develop early next week.
The corps said the river will remain above its 18-foot flood stage at Peoria for at least two months. It was estimated that it might be a month before the nearly 500 families forced to flee their flooded homes could return.
Authorities said federal and state disaster agency teams will begin working their way down the river next week to assess the damage.