Des Plaines begins cleanup, says 2,000 properties damaged
Cleanup of debris in the aftermath of the Des Plaines River flooding began in earnest Monday in Des Plaines as city crews worked to get trash receptacles in place at key locations for residents to discard their storm-damaged belongings.
After reaching a record peak of 10.92 feet, waters from the Des Plaines River had receded to 9.45 feet by Monday evening, enough for some homeowners to begin damage assessment.
"We just looked and everything is ruined," said Heather Roppel, whose house sits in the lowest point of Big Bend Drive, the area hardest hit and first to be evacuated after flooding began Wednesday night. "The river just wants to run right through us."
Roppel said Sunday she and her husband, Matthew, took a boat out to their house to review the extent of damage. Monday the couple were able to wade into water that was knee deep. The floodwater had engulfed their basement and was a foot high on the first floor, she said.
Roppel said the flooding has only gotten worse since the family moved into the house in 1995.
"I don't want to deal with it anymore," she said, adding that the couple now is ready to sell the property to the Federal Emergency Management Agency if money becomes available. They put their names on a buyout list earlier this year, she said.
"We love Des Plaines and we love this neighborhood," Matthew Roppel, adding though that the couple would research flooding before moving.
Some neighbors along Hawthorne Lane had begun pumping out water and cleanup while others used boats and waders to survey the damage.
Public works crews, contractors and Cook County prisoners in the Sheriff's Work Alternative Program are working throughout the flood-affected areas to facilitate cleanup, said Tim Oakley, the city's director of public works and engineering who is heading up the city's response.
Starting Tuesday crews from Lindenhurst and Hanover Park will be assisting with debris removal as part of the Illinois Public Works Mutual Aid Network, officials said.
"It's going to be weeks," Oakley said. "Our goal is to keep on top of the debris that gets placed on the parkways."
Garbage pickup resumed Monday in the city's 6th Ward in areas south of Oakton Street and east of Mannheim Road. Trash receptacles have been placed at multiple locations.
Two major roadways, Graceland Avenue and Rand Road west of Graceland are now open to traffic. While sections of Oakton Street are blocked off by barricades, going westbound at the river and eastbound between Lee and White streets, businesses along Oakton remain open.
All Des Plaines Elementary District 62 schools, except North, were open Monday. North remains inaccessible due road closures around the school, district officials said.
City crews are working on traffic control as the water recedes, which will be followed by street sweeping and inspecting structures, Oakley said.
"There's still water on the pavement. We're not going to be able to get any of the major roads open," he added.
Officials are asking for residents' cooperation as city employees begin inspecting homes and businesses to assess the extent of flood damage, per city code as required by FEMA. The inspections apply to all damaged structures and structures within the designated floodplain. Once city inspectors complete their assessment, a written determination will be mailed to the owners of the inspected structures.
Earlier estimates indicated nearly 800 properties sustained damage, but officials say that figure has grown much larger.
"We are now expecting over 2,000 properties that are likely affected, so we are inspecting that many," said Alex Dambach, director of community and economic development.
Property damage estimates are still several days away, Dambach added.
Officials said all repairs, reconstruction, and new construction will require a permit, and that the city will expedite that process. For more information, residents should call the Community and Economic Development Department at (847) 391-5380 during regular business hours.
Firefighters began cleanup Monday of the city's main Fire Station No. 1 at 405 S. River Road, behind the McDonald's on Rand Road. It was evacuated early Thursday.
"We kind of became a self-contained island here," Division Chief Pete Dyer said.
The station was fortified with water bladders and sandbags that kept the water from getting into the station, he said.
Station crews were relocated to Holy Family Medical Center in Des Plaines, from where they ran rescue operations.
"We actually housed 18 of our responders here, working out of Holy Family," Dyer said.
Dyer said the station should be cleaned up and operational with at least the rear parking lot cleared of floodwater within the next two days.
Des Plaines firefighters rescued a total of 60 people from homes, cars and the river, but officials could not provide accurate numbers for how many residents left their homes on their own. Some residents who chose to stay are still holed up in their homes, surrounded by floodwater, Dyer said.
Meanwhile, Salvation Army staff and volunteers are going door-to-door in Des Plaines to distribute flood cleanup kits. Residents also can pick up kits until supplies last at The Salvation Army Des Plaines Corps Community Center, 609 W. Dempster St.
Trash receptacles have been set up at the following locations:
• Fargo Avenue between River Road and Cedar Street
• Welwyn Avenue between River Road and Cedar Street
• Whitcomb Avenue between River Road and White Street
• Van Buren Street between River Road and White Street
• Willow Avenue and Graceland Avenue (two receptacles)
• Stewart Avenue and River Road
With most major arterial roads closed, Des Plaines Police are advising motorists to use the following alternate routes:
• North/south: Mount Prospect Road, Elmhurst Road, Wolf Road, Lee Street/Higgins Road
• East/west: Miner/Northwest Highway, Touhy Avenue, Devon Avenue
The Salvation Army will distribute flood cleanup kits in the following locations while supplies last:
• The Salvation Army Des Plaines Corps Community Center, 609 W. Dempster St. To confirm they are still available, call (847) 981-9111.
• 1-6 p.m. Tuesday, Aurora Corps Community Center, 437 E. Galena Blvd.
The Salvation Army also offers long-term flood relief, including emergency financial assistance for furniture, clothing, food, rent and utilities for those who qualify. Eligibility will be determined on a case-by-case basis. Call (773) 205-3520.
Source: The Salvation Army