VERMILION — The Vermilion River receded Sunday, but ice jams keep high water a concern.
At 5 p.m. Sunday, the river was at 13.7 feet, according to the National Weather Service in Cleveland. It had been at 15.5 feet at 5 p.m. Saturday. Flood stage is 9 feet.
Mayor Eileen Bulan said Sunday that a U.S. Coast Guard icebreaking vessel is being sought to open the frozen mouth of the Vermilion River later this week. Bulan said the Vermilion Harbor is too shallow for the icebreaker, but it could break ice outside the seawall.
Bulan said it was too early to assess how much damage the flooding has caused.
On Saturday, five adults and one child, as well as four dogs, were rescued by firefighters from four homes because of flooding on Riverside Drive, according to Fire Chief Chris Stempowski. He said when he was on Riverside around 1 p.m. Sunday, the south side of the street remained flooded and there was a “huge” ice jam on the north side.
Riverside perennially floods — some houses were built on stilts after a flood in 1969 — but the 15. 5 feet height of the river was the highest since 17 feet in 1969, according to police Officer Dale Reising.
Reising said the biggest concern is the jammed river mouth.
“If all the ice moves to the mouth, it’s got nowhere to go,” he said.
Reising said only Riverside remained closed Sunday “but everything is subject to change if an ice jam moves and we have flash flooding.”
A flash flood warning expired at 4 p.m. Sunday, but a flood warning remains in effect until 3 or 4 p.m. today, according to Brian Mitchell, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Cleveland office.
With temperatures expected to remain below freezing through Sunday, Mitchell said some ice will remain. However, the cold will prevent a quick thaw and flooding that a warm surge could trigger.
Mitchell urged people near flooded areas and ice jams to remain alert.
“Predicting exactly where it’s going to jam up at any particular time is tough to pinpoint,” he said.