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updated: 4/18/2013 10:51 PM

Suburbs' flooding woes might last awhile

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  • Video: Flooding on the Fox River

  • Video: Rising water in Algonquin

  • Video: Lake County press conference

  • Video: Water rescues in Lisle

  • Video: Lombard couple clears their house

  • Video: Flooding in Warrenville

  • Steve Lundy/slundy@dailyherald.com The Gurnee Barber Shop Old Grand Avenue prepares for flooding in Gurnee Thursday morning.

      Steve Lundy/slundy@dailyherald.com The Gurnee Barber Shop Old Grand Avenue prepares for flooding in Gurnee Thursday morning.

  • Ray Ritthamel, left, of the Des Plaines Public Works hands a sandbag to resident Sal Castellanos in the parking lot of Christ Church as floodwaters rise in Des Plaines Thursday.

       Ray Ritthamel, left, of the Des Plaines Public Works hands a sandbag to resident Sal Castellanos in the parking lot of Christ Church as floodwaters rise in Des Plaines Thursday.
    JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer

  • Oakwood Avenue in Des Plaines, just west of the River, is closed due to flooding Thursday.

       Oakwood Avenue in Des Plaines, just west of the River, is closed due to flooding Thursday.
    JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer

  • Martha Martinez ties sandbags loaded in the back of her van at the Christ Church parking lot as floodwaters rise in Des Plaines Thursday.

       Martha Martinez ties sandbags loaded in the back of her van at the Christ Church parking lot as floodwaters rise in Des Plaines Thursday.
    JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer

  • Steve Lundy/slundy@dailyherald.comVolunteer Fred Rickert of Zion places sandbags at Tranquility Salon on Old Grand Avenue in Gurnee Thursday morning.

      Steve Lundy/slundy@dailyherald.comVolunteer Fred Rickert of Zion places sandbags at Tranquility Salon on Old Grand Avenue in Gurnee Thursday morning.

  • Steve Lundy/slundy@dailyherald.comGurnee Community Church employees Stacey Rowan, left, and Shawn Robards make a sign that says "We have peace flowing like a river" as they prepare for flooding in Gurnee Thursday morning.

      Steve Lundy/slundy@dailyherald.comGurnee Community Church employees Stacey Rowan, left, and Shawn Robards make a sign that says "We have peace flowing like a river" as they prepare for flooding in Gurnee Thursday morning.

  • Paul Valade/pvalade@dailyherald.comLibertyville Public Works Director John Heinz listens in during a press conference Thursday morning at the Lake County Central Permit Facility in Libertyville as officials update the media and residents about the current flooding situation in Lake County.

      Paul Valade/pvalade@dailyherald.comLibertyville Public Works Director John Heinz listens in during a press conference Thursday morning at the Lake County Central Permit Facility in Libertyville as officials update the media and residents about the current flooding situation in Lake County.

  • Morning river levels

    Graphic: Morning river levels

 
 

Propelled by a deluge that at one point dropped an inch of rain in 20 minutes, quick-rising floodwaters flowed into basements, swallowed streets and closed schools throughout the suburbs Thursday.

Many residents who dealt with the watery nightmare created by up to seven inches of rain that doused the area Wednesday and Thursday are hoping today brings some normalcy.

But since river levels won't peak until late this morning or even Saturday, normal could be a long way away for those without habitable homes or living in towns under a state of emergency.

Amid the seemingly endless shoveling and sandbagging that went on Thursday came acts of heroism and charity.

Firefighters from throughout the region helped rescue 51 residents and 20 staff members from a flooded Lisle nursing home, carrying some out in wheelchairs. The residents were taken to other facilities around the suburbs.

Some residents of a Lisle high-rise apartment complex had to be evacuated with the help of firefighters and police as well.

"It's the worst flooding I've ever seen," said Lisle Mayor Joe Broda.

Des Plaines was the epicenter of the ravages of flooding from the namesake river that snakes through the city. Meteorologists late Thursday adjusted their prediction for the river's cresting to 10.6 feet, which would be short of the record of 10.9 feet set in 1986.

In the flood-prone Big Bend area of Des Plaines, water rose to within about 10 feet of the back of James Eck's house, which usually is about 50 feet from the river's edge.

By late Thursday the floodwaters were licking the makeshift sandbag wall he had spent the previous 24 hours erecting.

Frustrated by the city's response, Eck bought his own sand and bags.

"I had to buy this myself and have it delivered; the city wouldn't bring (sand) close enough," he said.

A small army of friends and family worked feverishly to fill sandbags and stack them around the home Eck has lived in his entire life.

Some of his neighbors' homes had already succumbed to floodwaters. Residents there had to be evacuated as well.

No deaths have been reported as a result of flooding. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn declared a state of emergency for the region Thursday, as did most counties and a number of towns. The declaration is a formality to recoup up to 75 percent of the funds spent by local governments on flood response, officials said.

Quinn toured flooded parts of Des Plaines and Elmhurst and said everyone should work together to recover from the flood.

Today's commute should be easier than on Thursday, when closed roads left many areas unnavigable.

The Edens Expressway was closed and lanes were blocked on the Jane Addams Tollway, Tri-State Tollway and
Eisenhower Expressway, among others, at various points during the morning.

Local roads were just as bad, and rail travel was no relief after a lightning strike blew out a series of complex switches near Chicago Thursday morning and stopped Metra trains on all three Union Pacific tracks, some for hours.

Some chose to just stay home and help their neighbors.

"My basement is doing good, but you call around to friends and family and neighbors to make sure they're doing OK and such," said Gurnee resident Mark Horvat, who stayed home from work and volunteered sandbagging in his hometown.

More rain is in the forecast, but nothing like the deluge the area received over the past 48 hours, which at times deposited more than an inch of rain in 20 minutes, said C. Kent McKenzie, coordinator of the Lake County Emergency Management Agency.

"The worst rainfall should be over," National Weather Service meteorologist Amy Seeley said.

Still, the glut of rain led Cook County's Metropolitan Water Reclamation District to ask the public to minimize water use for the next few days to leave storm sewers with more capacity to drain flood water.

Flooded roads closed dozens of schools in places like Addison, Gurnee, Elk Grove Village, Lombard, Des Plaines, Glendale Heights, Glenbard District 87, Wheaton-Warrenville Unit District 200 and Indian Prairie District 204 in Aurora and Naperville. By Thursday night, Des Plaines District 62, Lisle District 202, Maine District 207, Gurnee District 56, Winfield District 37, Libertyville High School and Oakton Community College already had made the decision to close today.

Do-it-yourselfers kept hardware and home stores busy Thursday, including a Lowe's in St. Charles.

"We actually opened early. We had people waiting to come in," said Assistant Manager Paul Baudouin, who said the usual opening time is 6 a.m.

Customers were mainly seeking replacement sump pumps, generators, shop vacuums, mops, bleach and dehumidifiers. As supplies got low, the store called for an extra shipment of vacs and pumps later in the day.

Homeowners next to the Des Plaines and Fox rivers worked nonstop to shore up efforts to save their houses. In places like Des Plaines and Fox Lake, the effort was of little help.

Fox Lake Emergency Services Disaster Agency Director Annette Wolf said about 100 homes in the Knollwood Park neighborhood were damaged. And the worst was yet to come because rivers had yet to peak, she said.

The Fox River is expected to peak at around noon Saturday in Algonquin at 13.5 feet deep, according to the National Weather Service.

Houses weren't the only buildings in peril. A subbasement flooded at Libertyville High School, which will be closed today for the second day.

Nearly five feet of water filled the Glen Ellyn Public Library's basement, closing it until April 29.

As rivers continue to swell from runoff, towns will remain on alert throughout the day today. In Warrenville, the West Branch of the DuPage River is expected to peak at 16.6 feet deep by Saturday afternoon.

"The worst has not happened yet," said Warrenville Mayor David Brummel.

• Daily Herald staff writers Lee Filas, Justin Kmitch, Marni Pyke, Robert Sanchez, Bob Susnjara and Colleen Thomas contributed to this report.

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