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posted: 4/17/2014 5:00 AM

Editorial: $200 million later, flood still hurts

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  • George LeClaire/gleclaire@dailyherald.com\Michelle VanDuynhoven gives her husband, John, a letter to mail at the bottom of the steps to their home on Stonegate Circle in Lincolnshire on April 20, 2013. John said there was no water in their house because they rebuilt it higher up in 2010.

      George LeClaire/gleclaire@dailyherald.com\Michelle VanDuynhoven gives her husband, John, a letter to mail at the bottom of the steps to their home on Stonegate Circle in Lincolnshire on April 20, 2013. John said there was no water in their house because they rebuilt it higher up in 2010.

 
The Daily Herald Editorial Board

It's been a year since a wall of water hit Des Plaines when the Des Plaines River crested at a record high level of 10.92 feet.

It's been a year since the Fox River spilled over into a neighborhood near East Dundee, and since parts of Lisle were drowned by the twin threats of the east branch of the DuPage River and St. Joseph Creek.

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These are only three examples of widespread disaster than came over the course of two days and a record-setting 5.55 inches of water that fell on the region April 17-18, 2013. The rapidly rising rivers and creeks caused evacuations, power outages and road closings, while damaging and destroying homes and businesses.

A year later, the federal government has paid out more than $200 million to flooding victims. Another $30 million is being set aside for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to buy homes from homeowners, in order to tear them down and revert the land to floodplain.

But there's no escaping the heartbreak, which in too many cases is still fresh. In today's paper, featuring the first part of our 2013 flood retrospective, we read stories about real loss. Lisle Mayor Joe Broda tells reporter Marie Wilson how some Lisle residents still have not returned to their homes a year later, as those homes are still severely damaged.

"That's devastating," he says.

Columnist Burt Constable tells the story of a disabled couple who live in an Elk Grove Township mobile home that took in 18 inches of water. They have been living there, unable to rebuild -- walking over boards they put down to cover the waterlogged floor -- until a local comedian held a fundraiser this month to help get the money together.

Two examples out of hundreds. And the 2013 floods were only the most recent.

Not all the damage is physical. A report put out last year by the Center for Neighborhood Technology, which studied insurance claims payouts for property damage in Cook County from 2007-2011, said 84 percent of those surveyed suffered stress from flooding, and 13 percent said it contributed to their ill health.

The work is continuing. More water storage is coming on line and being planned, levees have been built and the federal government is engaged in an active buyout program for homes where there isn't any other solution. (We'll learn more about that on Friday, in a Chris Placek story that looks at the buyout program.)

We applaud everyone who has been actively involved in studying the problem and working toward solutions.

But considering the devastation from 2013 and its lingering aftermath a year later, it just doesn't seem to be happening fast enough.

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