Grand Tower, Illinois, monitors water around levee

GRAND TOWER, IL — Grand Tower, Illinois, is one of many communities worried about rising water. They’re working on protecting their levee.

Illinois Gov. J.B Pritzker has issued a disaster declaration for more than 30 counties, including Jackson County.

The water is high on the Mississippi River, but marks on the ground show how high water was during the 2016 New Year’s Flood. Officials don’t think it will reach that mark. But that doesn’t mean other problems aren’t popping up.

Underground water caused a sinkhole to appear in Kyle McMahon’s yard. “The next thing you know, it went boom and dropped about 4 or 5 feet,” McMahon said.

He lives across the street from the levee. He said he hasn’t seen the water that high in years.

“I feel more worried about the water then I do the sinkhole, to be honest with you. If that water comes out of it, we’ll be in trouble,” said McMahon.

People in Grand Tower are used to preparing for high water. McMahon said he’s ready to go  if he needs to. “We got our medicine bag and stuff like that in case they do say get ready to get out of here. We got the main things we need to get going,” he said.

Grand Tower Fire Chief Dennis Wright said he has faith in the levee. “It’s been here a while, but it’s always managed to keep us dry,” said Wright.

They’ve been monitoring it because there’s one issue. “You got the Mississippi River on the west. You got the Muddy River on the east. The locks are closed right now. Normally, they let your water drain out of town when the rivers are low enough. When the river comes up, you have to shut them off to keep them from backing into town,” said Wright.

But Grand Tower is prepared with sandbags, and its pumps are running.

“You got to air on the side of safety and have everything set up when you need it. You don’t want to have everyone wait for it,” said Wright.

They are patrolling the levee. Anyone who is found out there without a pass could get a ticket from the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office.

Wright said if it is decided that people need to evacuate Grand Tower, they will announce it in the Grand Tower News Facebook group.