Albany Park residents begin clean up

Chicago River begins to recede
September 16, 2008 8:48:26 PM PDT
The sandbags remained, but flood waters in some areas were finally receding after record rainfall.There was some relief from a weekend of severe flooding on Chicago's Northwest Side: the North Branch of the Chicago River is receding.

Many flood victims were finally allowed to return to assess the damage Tuesday and begin the difficult task of putting their lives and homes back together.

Marilyn Dollar stood outside her house on Monticello and watched as most of what was inside her basement was bulldozed and scraped off the street.

"Couches, chairs, TVs, games . We haven't even brought out the big stuff out yet, like the washing machine, the drier, the boiler, hot water heater," she said.

At one point Sunday, the water in her basement was seven feet deep. It destroyed everything, including the heating system, appliances, furniture, her children's toys, as well as the office and classroom of her stay-at-home business. And what's more, it appears the water cracked the home's foundation.

"We stood here helpless watching the water, like the river was here in the yard," said Dollar.

Dollar's Albany Park neighborhood is on a bend of the Chicago River that is prone to flooding during heavy rain. But almost no one who lives there now had ever experienced what happened over the weekend. Monticello Avenue literally became part of the riverbed with water entering homes from under and above ground.

"It came up either through the sewer system or went right through the window," said John Spatz, Chicago Water Commissioner.

Dollar says she called her insurance company, State Farm, and was told she wasn't covered for water that came through the windows or that came up through the sewer. She and her husband estimate the cost to fix and replace everything lost could be as much as $80,000. At State Farm, which insures a company-estimated one in every three homeowners, an agent said homeowners need special riders to cover flood damage.

"On a normal insurance policy, water damage is not automatically covered if it's a floodwater or water that comes in through the sewers and drains," said Glenda Tolentino-Moser, State Farm.

Albany Park homeowner Pam Kane, who lost everything in her basement, bought a sewer backup rider and federal flood insurance three years ago. But she says she she'll continue to worry until she sees a check.

"I hope I've got it covered. I'm scared. I'm just very thankful it didn't go up to the first floor," said Pam Kane, Albany Park resident.

Commonwealth Edison said all power had been restored to Albany Park Tuesday afternoon. Natural gas service had yet to be completely restored as of 4 p.m. Tuesday.

Over the weekend, dozens of residents had to evacuate. Many chose to stay at a temporary shelter that was set up by the Red Cross at a nearby senior center. About 40 people stayed there Saturday night and 20 people Sunday night.

Cook County has been declared a disaster area, so there is a chance that state funds might be freed up to help with the cleanup.

The rising water in Albany Park brought out the politicians and city officials Monday to see the extent of the damage to the area and homes. Senator Dick Durbin talked to clean up crews, many who worked throughout the night.

All the neighborhood residents ABC7 talked to Monday said they were unable to get flood insurance -- they don't know how they are going to be able to recoup their losses. The alderman said they are applying for disaster aid. All postal service in the area was temporarily suspended.

"If we learn here there are things that we need to do, particularly to protect these families from the losses that can't be compensated, we ought to get that on the record and respond to Washington and Springfield," said Durbin.

Some residents who live along the North Branch of the river could not get to their homes Monday, some of which were submerged beneath 5 feet of water.

"Everybody is evacuated. Everybody got asked to leave," said Albany Park resident Judy Gadiel. "It smells. Houses are destroyed."

"It is as bad as you can imagine. You buy a house on the river and it is beautiful. Obviously, you imagine some day it could happen, but you never think it is going to happen," said Aaron Gadiel, Albany Park.

Dollar's home is engulfed with water. With no insurance, she last lost everything, including her rubber stamp and scrapbooking business she runs from the basement of her home.

"All of the stuff we lost I am OK with. It is the boiler, the hot water heater, the washing machine, dryer and refrigerator all floating in the mess down there," said Dollar.

City officials say that during the storm, the equivalent of 100 billion gallons of water was dumped in the Chicagoland area.

The big question for the 370 displaced residents in Albany Park was: When would they be able to return to their homes? Most were allowed back Tuesday.

"We are in the process of going block by block. There is a lot of city resources here. We are going to stay here until this thing is done and resolved," said Ray Orozco, Office of Emergency Management and Communications.

A city hotline number has been setup for Albany Park residents that were evacuated: (312) 743-INFO.

If you have questions or problems with flooding, you can call the city's non-emergency number at 311.

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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