State of emergency declared for Cook County

Area expressways shut down
September 14, 2008 8:50:22 PM PDT
The declaration came after three days of record rainfall that has swollen rivers, overwhelmed storm water systems and forced the evacuations of some residents.Cook County suburbs were fighting several rising rivers Sunday, including the Des Plaines River, which was expected to crest at just over 10 feet Sunday night.

Flooding has affected several expressways. The Bishop Ford expressway is closed southbound to Interstate 80 and northbound between 130th Street and 147th streets. Drivers are urged to take the Skyway instead. The Borman is also shut down from Calumet to Klein Avenue in northwest Indiana in both directions. The Illinois Department of Transportation is closing eastbound Interstate 80/94 at Route 394 until the Borman reopens. The closure has been backing traffic up for miles.

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich issued a statement Sunday saying the state will assist local agencies with recovery efforts. Sunday's emergency declaration for Cook County also will help suburbs get federal assistance to recover from the flooding.

" I'm here today to declare a state of emergency in Cook County. That will include the whole county. We have had our emergency management agency working for the last three days. We have had record levels of rainfall and extensive damage with flooding," Cook County Board Pres. Todd Stroger said.

The nonstop rain took its toll on people throughout the Chicago area over the weekend.

However, conditions within city limits seemed to be the worst in the Albany Park neighborhood on the city's Northwest Wide, where the north branch of the Chicago River spilled over its banks.

Hundreds of homes have been affected, and dozens of people have been evacuated by boat.

The walls of sandbags did not make much of a difference in parts of the Albany Park neighborhood, as the Chicago River rose too quickly, flooding streets, turning backyards into ponds and basements into pools.

"My goodness. You can't even recognize Foster and Springfield; it's devastating. You can go swimming out here. You don't think it can come to your own neighborhood," said area resident Cleetus Freedman.

A new record has been set for rainfall in Chicago - just how much?

"As of this morning, we've had approximately 90 billion gallons of water fall on our service area," said Terry O'Brien of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District.

A good portion of that water is forcing some people to leave their homes. The Chicago Fire Department is helping residents evacuate, including a few senior citizens who need extra care.

The city is requiring those who live near the Chicago River to leave, but some families are going to stay home and fight the floodwater.

"It's a family thing. We're not leaving. They're predicting more rain, and they said they were going to start mandatory evacuations. But my aunt says, 'You're going to have to take me from the roof.' So, we're going to be here for a while," said Albany Park resident Evelyn O'Connor.

As bad as the flooding is, city officials say it could have been much worse.

"Anytime you get storms like this, there's usually heavy winds, trees down. Fortunately, we don't have those problems as bad as we usually do in a storm like this," Dept. of Streets and Sanitation Commissioner Mike Picardi.

Only heavy duty vehicles can navigate the heavily flooded streets. City workers are sandbagging at a furious pace. Overall, Albany Park residents say the city is doing a good job.

"I'm impressed with the city's response. I think they're doing a good job overall. Everybody's working together. [It] seems to be working out real well," said resident Andy Klobucnik.

Saturday night, 40 residents spent the night in a temporary shelter at a senior facility. Sunday night, that number was expected to go down to 20.

Authorities are asking those with flooding problems or questions to call the non-emergency line at 311.

Shelters set up across Chicago area

Because of the flooding emergency, all of south suburban Calumet City is evacuating. Firefighters are using boats to get people out of the drenched area.

Residents who live along the Little Calumet River were among the first people who were ordered to get out. A shelter is now set up at Thornton Fractional high school, and the Red Cross is on hand to help.

The Red Cross also has four other shelters set up, located at:

Des Plaines Park District

515 East Thacker Street

St. Stevens Lutheran Church at 147th and Kildare in south suburban Midlothian

Mount Carmel school

1101 North 23rd Avenue

Melrose Park

North Park College

5801 North Pulaski

Chicago


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