After severe flooding, why they chose to stay
- Photos (5)
When a big flood hits, your instinct is to feel sorry for the victims hit the hardest. Not only are they forced from their homes, but the cleanup often is measured in more than hours or even days. And you feel especially sorry for those in flood-prone areas who have been through this repeatedly.
But along with the pity, you might also have a question: Why stay? Why put up with this? Why live in a state of constant worry when it rains?
The answer, according to several of the flood victims we talked to this past week, is: It's just a temporary setback. And these are their homes, sometimes the homes they grew up in, often in idyllic neighborhoods, near the water, tranquil, rural.
As one resident put it, "It's beautiful 99 percent of the time."
'I love it down here'
Six years ago, when a flood forced Barrie Komorski from her home, she considered selling her house in the Richardson subdivision, an oft-flooded area near East Dundee.
She couldn't go through with it; she loves her neighborhood too much.
Komorski, 60, lives alone with her year-old dog, Roxi, and when she needs heavy things lifted around the house, she calls on her younger male neighbors to help.
She's made quite a life for herself. Her neighborhood, which abuts the Fox River, has a rural feel; and it's not unusual to see deer and other wildlife just outside her house.
Komorski also runs the neighborhood association in the tight-knit, peaceful community. Most of the neighbors know each other and have each others' backs.
The subdivision is about 20 minutes away from Fox River Grove, where her daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter live, which is convenient for her.
"I love it down here, I really do," Komorski said. "You don't get a lot of cars going in there because there's only one way in and one way out."
The downside to life on the river is she's had to evacuate her house three times since she moved there 17 years ago — not knowing there were flooding issues. Those evacuations took place in 2007, 2010 and on Thursday.
But the only reason Komorski left her house the other day was because of Roxi. Water surrounded her house, so there was nowhere to walk the pup, and Nicor had shut off the gas as a precautionary measure, so they would be without heat.
The East Dundee Fire Protection District used an inflatable boat to rescue her and her dog in dramatic fashion.
Whenever the water forces her out of her house, Komorski always stays with her family in Fox River Grove.
As for her three brushes with Mother Nature, she shrugs them off.
"If it gets in my house, I have insurance," she said. "Why worry about it? It's happened, and like I said, you get used to it. It floods every year down here, but not to this extent."
— Lenore T. Adkins
Diana Vileta said she wouldn't consider leaving her lakefront property on Fox Lake.
"It's a gorgeous place to live," she said by telephone while her home is surrounded by water from rising Fox Lake. "For 99 percent of the year, this is a gorgeous place to live."
She and her husband, John Vileta Sr., have lived on Fox Lake full time since leaving Palatine in 1999. They bought their lakefront property in 1971 and renovated it in 1992.
Vileta said she has seen a dozen floods, but aside from some damaged landscaping, her home has remained relatively dry. "We get it on the road and in our yard, but that's about it," she said. "We may get some this time, but I wouldn't dream of moving away. We've been through so many floods and other issues here, we're staying."
Her son, John Vileta Jr., lives on the water three doors down. He is moving to Palatine with his wife, Kristen, and daughter, Madison, in the coming months.
Diana Vileta said he's moving because his wife works as a teacher in Buffalo Grove. They will keep their home on the water as a summer destination.
"We don't go through some of what other people go through," she said. "But, even if we did, I think we'd still stay. Like I said, it's beautiful 99 percent of the time."
— Lee Filas
'I grew up here'
Spring and fall are always stressful times for Lorie Granderson, who lives in her childhood home on Willard Avenue, across the street from Willow Creek in Elgin.
Whenever the creek overflows, the water creeps toward her house and often shuts Willard Avenue entirely, as was the case on Thursday.
The worst flood was in 2007 when the water was just 8 inches from coming in, said Granderson, 54. Last week's storms were the second worst in memory, with the water stopping 7 to 8 feet from her garage.
"What really got me through this is the Lord and prayers," she said.
Still, she would never consider moving.
"My mom and dad built the house, and I grew up here. When they passed away, I bought it off my sisters," said Granderson, who moved back in 1994.
The neighborhood is quiet and peaceful, and you can occasionally spot wildlife, like duck, geese and even deer, Granderson said.
Flooding has been more manageable since her husband installed a sump pump about eight years ago. The house is paid off, though she doesn't have flood insurance because it's too much for her fixed income, she added.
"I've thought about selling, but it's probably not worth that much because it is in a flood zone," she said.
Plus, it's always been home, she said.
"It's hard to pick up all those memories and just go," she said. "And where do you find a place that you know more than your home where you were growing up?"
— Elena Ferrarin
'Doesn't happen often'
Dave Envall, who lives on Sherwood Lane in Des Plaines, said the 2008 flood cost him more than $100,000 in damages. He anticipates even greater costs this time around. He said he was thinking about selling the house this year.
"Have you ever tried to sell a house once it's flooded?" he asked rhetorically.
Envall, who has lived in Des Plaines since 1976, said the reason he still lives there despite the flooding is because of the idyllic character of the neighborhood.
"This (flooding) doesn't happen that often," Envall said. "There's no sidewalks. No curbs. Big trees. You can walk to downtown Des Plaines. It's like living in the country."
However, he added, the flooding has gotten progressively worse.
"Now it just seems like they keep building on the edge of the river," Envall said. "That's more concrete that causes the river to back up because there's no place for the water to sink in anymore,"
— Madhu Krishnamurthy
'You feel safer there'
There's no such thing as forced evacuation in McHenry County, says Dave Christensen, director of the county's emergency management agency.
So, if people want to stay in their homes even as floodwaters encroach, there's nothing he can do.
Christensen said that since the flooding started, his agency talked to about a half-dozen disabled people who called for help.
But those same callers rebuffed his employees' advice to evacuate their homes. Christensen understands the mentality, though he doesn't agree with it.
"I want those people to be in the safest place possible," Christensen said, "but if that's the home you grew up in, the home you're comfortable in, well, somehow you feel safer there than anywhere else, even with flood water around you."
— Lenore T. Adkins
'It's just one bad day'
Dan Schwendeman did his homework before buying his house seven years ago in the Valley View area near Glen Ellyn.
Despite the DuPage County subdivision's chronic flooding problems, Schwendeman and his wife loved the large lots, great schools and friendly neighbors.
"It's a good neighborhood," Schwendeman said. "It's just one bad day."
That bad day came Thursday, when torrential rains left his split-level home along Arbor Lane surrounded by water. Inside, the basement was flooded and there was several inches of water on the main floor.
The flooding was so bad in the neighborhood, which is near Route 53 and Butterfield Road, that firefighters used boats and rafts to partially evacuate the area.
Even though he knew flooding was a possibility, Schwendeman said he never anticipated what happened last week.
"It just came too hard, too fast, too much," he said.
Schwendeman says he doesn't know what's going to happen next. First, he needs to assess the damage. He's already learned his flood insurance won't cover the cost to replace his family's personal belongs.
And while some have suggested it, Schwendeman said he doesn't think moving is an option.
"I've got a 4-year-old," he said. "He was born here. The school is up the street. We love the neighborhood, and the people are great. But what's going to happen from here on out? I don't know."
— Robert Sanchez
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