Volunteers filled sandbags and the Des Plaines River spilled onto the pavement in some areas Thursday, but much has changed since the last significant flood on Gurnee’s east side in 2004.
Mayor Kristina Kovarik said the water problems didn’t develop around Old Grand Avenue and Kilbourne Road until the river hit 9 feet. In past years, she said, volunteers would have been mobilized for sandbag-filling duty when the river swelled to 7 feet.
Following recent heavy rains, the swollen river spilled over its banks and floodwater flowed toward homes on Kilbourne and Emerald Avenue on Thursday afternoon. However, unlike in past years, the problem was not as widespread and water remained far from Gurnee Community Church, a bank and a school to the east at O’Plaine Road and Old Grand.
“O’Plaine and Old Grand, that used to go under water,” Kovarik said.
What’s changed since 2004 is Gurnee purchased at least a dozen structures that were demolished and removed from the flood zone east of the river. Officials said the purchases allowed for the creation of more open space to soak up flood water.
Kovarik also pointed to drainage improvements on O’Plaine Road and a construction project that included work to stem occasional flooding on Washington Street, a major east-west thoroughfare. Commuters were able to use Washington without interruption Thursday.
Gurnee Grade School on Kilbourne Road, just a stone’s throw from the river, was not on the worry list this week, either. Gurnee Elementary District 56 closed the building in January and shifted students to a new building in Wadsworth and a school on O’Plaine Road behind village hall.
Parents, children and other volunteers who used to mobilize to place piles of sandbags around the school were not needed this time. Gurnee Grade will be demolished this year and open space created for the site.
“The 12,000 sandbags we did (Wednesday), that would have gone to the school (in the past),” Kovarik said.
Similar to when Gurnee officials braced for flooding that never occurred in April and June 2008, Kovarik said the village this week has been protected by the improved Des Plaines River Wetlands Demonstration Project to the north. It’s about 550 acres owned by the Lake County Forest Preserve District that acts like a sponge.Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.