Cleanup continues after Chicago-area storms

July 27, 2010 7:04:21 AM PDT
Gov. Pat Quinn has declared 12 counties as Illinois disaster areas following weekend storms that dumped near-record rainfall in the Chicago area.

The west Chicago suburbs of Cicero and Westchester, along with a Chicago apartment complex along the Chicago River, were the hardest hit when more than seven inches of rain quickly fell on northern Illinois on Friday and Saturday.

Quinn says dozens of communities are reeling from the damage. He noted Monday that 125,000 sandbags have been sent to Henderson County.

The other 11 counties declared disaster areas are Carroll, Cook, DuPage, Jo Daviess, Lee, Mercer, Ogle, Rock Island, Stephenson, Whiteside and Winnebago.

Officials in the west Chicago suburb of Cicero estimate the damage to homes during weekend storms totaled at least $12 million.

ComEd says power has been restored for almost all of the 170,000 customers who lost power from the powerful storms.

Meanwhile, thousands of homeowners are still cleaning up. Residents are also hoping to receive some help from the government to repair the damage.

Furniture, clothes and toys sit on the curb in an Elmhurst neighborhood Monday night. Basements and homes are flooded and residents have no choice but to get rid of all the water-logged items. Many are wondering where to go for help.

Residents of the west suburb packed into a meeting Monday night at a nearby school asking questions and looking for answers.

"Our basement window filled up with water because of the blocked sewer," said Gary Anderson, flood victim.

"Literally the block on this side and the block on that side-clear. We had water up to here in the street," said Martha Hernandez, flood victim.

Many homes in the city also flooded, including a basement on the near North Side. The pump failed allowing a couple inches of water to accumulate. But because some of it came up from the ground it was enough to cause major damage. "This stuff is serious?you don't know what's been mixed in here and how dangerous it could be," said Jason Scott, Restoration SOS.

Experts used a thermal imaging camera to reveal where the water is behind the walls. In this case they have to remove a foot of drywall around the entire basement. They have to let the studs dry out and make sure there is no other water before finishing it up again.

Scott's crew is based near Houston but the Restoration SOS company called them up to Chicago to help. And they've been busy.

"Nonstop. We're getting calls every day," said Scott.

Westchester's mayor is handing out survival kits to his residents as they look for help.

"We had 11 boats out here and probably 40 pieces of apparatus to help us. If that isn't Westchester's Katrina, then nothing is," said Sam Pulia, mayor of Westchester.

On Monday afternoon officials from flood-affected communities demanded that Cook County board president Todd Stroger declare a disaster so affected towns can apply for federal aid.

But after years of trying to get a government buyout for the Carol Stream home she shares with her disabled son, resident Nancy Barcelona says it's too little to late.

"I cannot do this again. I cannot rebuild my house again only for it to flood Wednesday night when severe storms come through again," said Barcelona.

The flood waters may be gone, but the problems are just beginning for residents in both DuPage and Cook counties left still reeling from the aftermath of heavy storms. Some residents say they're still waiting for a study of the flood plain.

"We want answers. We want something to be done, something. If nothing is to be done, nothing will be done. We will look at our options," said Rich Borkowski, flood victim.

On Monday, an elementary school parking lot in the west suburb doubled as a service center where homeowners could get supplies and give damage estimates to city officials. And while everyone watches the flood waters slowly recede, Kevin Bieschke just wants out.

"This is the fourth flood my house has been through. Who would want a house that has been flooded four times?" said Bieschke.

Meanwhile, the Better Business Bureau is warning flood victims to make sure the companies they deal with are reputable and not going to victimize them a second time.

"They need to have things done if there's been damage and they need them done quickly, many times even before an insurance payment can be made," said Tom Joyce, Better Business Bureau.

More than seven inches of rain fell quickly late Friday and early Saturday in portions of northern Illinois.

At least one person died. Authorities say 56-year-old Patrick Jones of Keeneyville drowned Saturday after his paddle boat capsized.

The heavy rains also meant the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District had to discharge sewer water into Lake Michigan. A swim ban was in effect through Monday at Chicago-area beaches.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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