Watch now: Both sides of I-55 in McLean County open following flood-related closures | Local News


MCLEAN — Both sides of Interstate 55 between the McLean and Shirley exits opened Saturday afternoon after at least 16 hours of road crews working to mitigate flooding and collapse caused by heightened water levels of nearby Timber Creek.

The southbound side of I-55 reopened before noon on Saturday and the northbound side opened at 2:35 p.m., the Illinois Department of Transportation said on social media. 

Funks Grove Township highway road commissioner Russ Broadfield said traffic was being diverted to US Old Route 66, which runs parallel to I-55. This would be the plan again if the road becomes flooded again as more rain falls this weekend, he said. 

Flooding rescue

A Funks Grove firefighter uses an exposure suit to recover a guideline used in rescues from the swollen Timber Creek along Interstate 55 on Saturday. Firefighters said water had come up over 15 feet from the normal level of the creek as they began to pull vehicles from the creek Saturday morning.

He added that motorists should continue to expect bottlenecks and closures in the area as local road and IDOT crews continue to to clear lanes of debris and water.

“I think it’s just a mess,” Broadfield said. 

Photos posted on social media early Saturday by the Mt. Hope-Funks Grove Fire Protection District showed areas of the state highway covered by water and by chunks of pavement, likely dislodged by flash flooding. 

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Emergency responders from the district were dispatched at 11 p.m. Friday to a point along Timber Creek, near the Funks Grove Rest Area, for a report of a sinking vehicle with four people trapped inside. 

According to an account of the rescue posted on the district’s social media page, responders first arrived from the south, finding the vehicle inaccessible.

Flooding rescue

A nearby resident helped to recover a flooded pickup truck on Saturday that had ended up in Timber Creek along Interstate 55 during heavy rainfall Friday night. A semitrailer truck had also been recovered nearby as northbound I-55 remained closed due to pavement damage from flooding on the creek.

One person was clinging to a tree and three people who tried to rescue that person also ended up needing help, McLean County Sheriff’s Sgt. Luke Werts said, adding he could release no more details of the incident.

The Hudson dive team and the MABAS 41 Water Rescue Team — staged at the Bloomington Fire Department headquarters — were both deployed to the scene.  Responders in the meantime approached via US Old Route 66 toward Shirley to reach the vehicle from the other side of Timber Creek.

Rescue crews in boats reached the vehicle at 1:30 a.m. Saturday, and by 2:48 a.m. all four victims and responders were out of the water. The four were transported to the hospital with no reported injuries.

Contact Timothy Eggert at (309) 820-3276. Follow him on Twitter: @TimothyMEggert

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