Four crews of Des Plaines housing inspectors were out in force Tuesday, knocking on doors of homes along the floodplain to gauge the extent of damage.
Inspections began last Thursday after the Des Plaines River breached its banks Wednesday night and flooded residential neighborhoods all along the river, as well as many businesses downtown and along Oakton Street. The river was at 8.78 feet Tuesday, still above flood stage but well below Friday's record crest of 10.92 feet.
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Inspectors went street by street Tuesday questioning residents about how high the water got on their properties and into their homes, whether built-in appliances were damaged, and whether the plumbing and electricity were functioning.
"It came up so fast," said Elizabeth Heyse, 83, a 61-year resident of Fargo Avenue.
Heyse said she wasn't home when the water began rising on her street, but her son-in-law started the pumps in the basement.
"It wasn't healthy at first," she said of the water, which was mixed with sewage.
Heyse said her backyard and garage were flooded, and there was up to 6 inches of water in her basement, which dried out by the weekend. Flooding took out her furnace and basement tiles were coming loose, though a gas fireplace in the basement was working, she said. No interior walls were damaged and her plumbing and electricity are functioning.
She was among the lucky ones.
Several residents along Fargo Avenue complained that they weren't prepared for the flooding because the city didn't drop off sandbags near enough to their homes, housing inspector Pamela Lunsmann said. The floodwater level was at least 3 feet at street level.
"Most people have been through this before," Lunsmann said.
Alex Dambach, the city's community and economic development director, said there will be additional inspection teams starting assessments Wednesday.
"We dispersed people throughout the city," he said. "We began with a preliminary assessment during the flood period to get an initial list of properties to follow up on. As roads start to open, we're going to be going out more."
Officials say more than 2,000 properties have been damaged by flooding, which includes residential and commercial buildings. An estimate of total damages is still far off, Dambach said.
Some major roadways, including Oakton Street and Rand Road, that were closed near the Des Plaines River because of flooding reopened Tuesday.
North Elementary School off Rand Road was closed Tuesday, but is expected to reopen Wednesday with bus transportation resuming for all students, said Mindy Ward, spokeswoman for Des Plaines Elementary District 62.
Students living on the east side of the Des Plaines River will be picked up. Early morning band and orchestra practice, as well as before and after school activities will resume as scheduled.
Meanwhile, Oakton Community College's Des Plaines campus is expected to remain closed through Thursday due to extensive flooding. Many on-campus events this week have been canceled, including Six Piano Ensemble performances scheduled for April 27 and 28. For updates, check oakton.edu.
Work on the college's new Science and Health Careers Center also is halted due to flooding. For a live webcam view of the construction progress, visit oakton.edu/about/facilities_plan/construction_cam/index.php.
Des Plaines public works crews, contractors and Cook County inmates in the Sheriff's Work Alternative Program continue working throughout the flood-affected areas to facilitate cleanup. Crews from Palatine Township, and Hanover Park, Lindenhurst and Rolling Meadows are assisting with debris removal as part of the Illinois Public Works Mutual Aid Network, officials said.
Several city projects, such as street improvements along Miner Street in downtown and storm sewer upgrades, have been halted due to flooding.
Officials said they will continue to make sand and sandbags available at various locations because of the chance of rain Tuesday. The city has supplied and used 75,000 sandbags thus far, officials said.
Garbage collection, with the exception of yard waste, continues as usual. Residents in neighborhoods where floodwater has dried up have begun piling sandbags and flood-damaged items curbside.
City crews will not be collecting hazardous or electronic waste. The public works facility also will not be available for electronic recycling Wednesday. Starting next Wednesday, May 1, electronic recyclables may be brought between the hours of 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. to the Public Works Garage, 1111 Joseph J. Schwab (Campground) Road.
Police are advising motorists to use alternate routes when traveling through the city due to major arterial roads being closed.
Accessible routes are:
North/South: Mount Prospect Road, Elmhurst Road, Wolf Road, Lee Street/Higgins Road
East/West: Miner Street/Northwest Highway, Touhy Avenue, Devon Avenue, Oakton Street, Rand Road.
The following roads are still closed:
Big Bend Drive
Golf Road between River Road and East River Road
Lee Street between River Road and Elk Boulevard
River Road between Rand Road and Elk Boulevard
River Road between Miner Street & Touhy Avenue
Central Road between East River Road & River Road
Algonquin Road between River Road & Lee Street
Busse Highway at Miner Street to Mason Lane
Northbound River Road at Central Road