Crazy Illinois Winter Weather Brings Ice Jams, Flooding, and Tornadoes on the Kankakee River

Unless this crazy weather pattern stops, I’m afraid my family is going to run me out of town on a rail for fear that I am a jinx. To begin with, this has been Illinois’ coldest December in many years. The Kankakee River, which runs right by my Dad’s front door, NEVER freezes before January. But the recent long string of sub-zero days caused the river to freeze over in mid-December this year.

Yesterday morning, with the temperatures still below freezing, I watched a three wheeler zipping down the ice out in the middle of the river. Later that afternoon the temperatures started to climb and kept climbing. By noon today, it was 60 degrees outside and the ice was rapidly melting. Not long afterward, from his spot in front of the picture window overlooking the river, Dad said, “Here it comes. The ice is breaking up.” I rushed over to see. Looking across the glassy surface, I spotted a narrow band of broken up ice slowly floating past the island that marks the midpoint of the river.

Ice flow on the Kankakee River in Illinois

Grabbing the camera, I ran outside and looked upstream. The ice moved slowly at first, crackling and popping as sheets split apart. Expanses of water opened up, releasing pent up flood waters that had backed up behind the ice floe. Raging waters and 40 mph buffeting winds forced ice chunks to tumble on top of one another and build up into jagged mountains. Giant tree branches and tree trunks protruded from the floe as it raced downstream, threatening the houses across the river that are at a lower elevation.

Frozen Kankakee River
Ice jam on the Kankakee River

Straight ahead, the island began to disappear as the ice climbed onto the low-lying land:

Ice breaks and creates a jam on the Kankakee River in Illinois

Large chunks of ice and accumulated snow floated by:

Ice flow on the Kankakee River in Illinois

I looked to my right. The ice in front the neighbor’s house was still unblemished, but not for long……

Some docks were carried away by the ice

Within minutes the powerful flow had moved into the cove, twisted their protruding dock posts, and carried them several feet downstream:

Ice rushes down Kankakee River

Further downstream, the ice completely blocked the cove and began to climb onto the shore, threatening to carry away boat lifts and lawn furniture:

Jammed up ice rises onto the shore

When the winds got so strong I could barely keep my balance, I retreated back inside. “Keep an eye out now, we’re under a tornado watch until 3 p.m.,” Dad said. Sure enough a short while later a strong band of storms rolled through, dumping a couple of inches of rain and pelting the windows with a brief hailstorm.

It is dark now. The winds have died down and the tornado warning has been canceled. I figured we were home free. But I figured wrong. Dad just walked in from checking the river.

“The water’s rising. It’s already an inch over the sidewalk.” The river is usually a foot below this walkway. Above the walkway is a flagstone retaining wall, and behind that is the yard, so I am not particularly worried, even though the news channels are warning of flash flooding along most Illinois waterways. My Dad’s house occupies the highest lot in the subdivision and he has never been flooded. But for the past hour he has been talking about packing up and leaving; I really don’t know what to think at this point, other than to question whether I am, indeed, a jinx.

P.S. Have I mentioned that it’s 80 degrees in Sarasota, Florida?

3 thoughts on “Crazy Illinois Winter Weather Brings Ice Jams, Flooding, and Tornadoes on the Kankakee River”

  1. Pingback: 70 Fantastic Tips and Stories for Your Ultimate Winter Wonderland Travel Joy - All Colores
  2. Hope you don’t mind me dropping in but I love to read about places other than the UK and this post had me fascinated. I could only imagine watching something like this on my doorstep.

    Our British weather is sooooo average and boring compared to everyone elses it seems!

    Beautiful photographs!

    I hope you are OK and not flooded or blown away by now.



Leave a Comment