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Article updated: 4/20/2013 5:58 PM

Des Plaines gears up for post-flooding cleanup

By Madhu Krishnamurthy

Des Plaines city officials and residents are gearing up for a massive cleanup effort with the Des Plaines River starting to recede from its record high of 10.92 feet reached Friday afternoon. The river had fallen to 10.51 feet by 4:45 p.m. Saturday. The previous record was 10.9 feet set in 1986.

Des Plaines Fire Chief Alan Wax said Saturday that firefighters have evacuated 70 residents from flooded homes, rescued 15 people from cars stuck in floodwater, and rescued one person from the river.

Some residents in flooded neighborhoods waited until the last minute to ask for the city's help with evacuation, which was done with fire department boats and high-clearance vehicles, said Tim Oakley, the city's director of engineering and public works who is leading the city's emergency response to flooding.

"It's primarily the area north of Rand Road and east of River Road -- there's two or three subdivisions in that particular area," Oakley said. "The water is now receding so what we're concentrating on is the traffic control. We will be moving barricades, checking our infrastructure."

Cleanup is still several days away as the water needs to recede further before it can begin in earnest.

"There are a total of 771 properties that appear to be affected," said Alex Dambach, director of community and economic development.

City officials have increased police presence at problem locations where motorists have been driving over smaller barricades and through flooded streets, Oakley said.

Open storm sewer manholes pose a threat to anyone navigating floodwaters either by vehicle or on foot, he added.

"That's why it's important not to drive through the water. You might drive into a manhole opening or hit the cover," he said. "You don't know what's under the water."

Once the floodwaters recede, officials will start making provisions for inspections and cleanup, though in less affected parts of town residents have started putting out flood-damaged items on parkways, he added.

Garbage collection in the city will be unaffected and resume as normal starting Monday. However, the collection of yard waste has been suspended until further notice.

Public works crews will help ARC Disposal with debris collection, along with the collection of sandbags in flood-affected areas. Sandbags should be placed at the curb separate from other debris. Collection will continue until all bags have been recovered. Once the sandbags are removed, the streets will be swept to remove any remaining debris.

Residents are asked to put flood-damaged items out at the curb, but no household waste or electronic waste will be collected.

Officials said a permit is required for nearly all construction work, even if related to post-flooding repairs except the removal/replacement of carpet or tile, drywall or cabinetry. For information, call the Community Development Department at (847) 391-5380.

Residents also are urged to report flood damages to their insurance companies, and to be careful when choosing contractors to clean up or repair their homes and businesses.

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