How Gurnee limited some damage from flooding

Posted7/25/2017 5:30 AM

Three buildings in the flood zone in Gurnee were spared the major damage that some of their neighbors received in part because the village paid to have large concrete barriers installed around them as a heavy duty alternative to sandbags.

The fixtures, called jersey barriers, are the same as the concrete barriers that keep highway workers separated from traffic, village engineer Scott Drabicki said at the village board meeting Monday night.


The barriers were placed around Gurnee Community Church at 4555 Old Grand Ave., the Dairy Queen at 4611 Old Grand Ave. and the American Legion Post 771 at 749 Milwaukee Ave.

Drabicki said a building next to the Dairy Queen had a foot and a half of water in it, and so far the village has determined that 24 structures in the floodplain took on water.

Drabicki said the barriers presented several advantages over traditional sandbags, including being sturdier and quicker to install than sandbag walls.

Gurnee resident Shawn Depke, who owns two homes in the flood zone, complained to the village board that no homeowners were given barriers and the church was.

"It seems like there's a concentration always on the church, and I don't think that's right," Depke said. "Taxpayers should be first, that's my opinion."

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Village administrator Patrick Muertz said one of the reasons they didn't use the barriers at more locations is because they couldn't be installed on grass.

Drabiticki said also that for the barriers to work someone needs to be at the building 24/7 and run pumps to stay on top of any water that does get past the barrier.

"The church had 14 pumps going at the peak of the flood," Drabiticki said.

Drabiticki said it was just the second time the village has used concrete barriers, the first being the 2013 flood.

How to best use the concrete barriers is just one element of the village's response to the flood that the staff will consider and learn from in the coming weeks. Staff members presented an informal report on the response at Monday night's meeting.


Mayor Kristina Kovarik said the flood was heartbreaking and devastating but she was still proud of how everyone acted. Muetz praised the police department for keeping people away from dangerous floodwaters, which conceal death traps if there are open manhole covers under the water. Muetz said it is also a nuisance having people near the waters.

"We don't need lookie-loos in there dinking around in a dangerous situation," Muertz said.

Police Chief Kevin Woodside said officers who were supposed to have the day off had to come in to work so the department could keep the flood zone covered and still have officers available to provide regular police protection.

"That took a toll over six days, but everyone held up," Woodside said.

Trustee Michael Jacobs asked Woodside if there had been any reports of people with sticky fingers taking advantage of the floodwaters. The chief said there weren't any reports of theft.

"Good. I'm glad to hear that we still live in Mayberry," Jacobs joked.

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