City, suburbs battle rising rivers

March 10, 2009 4:20:46 PM PDT
Flood waters appear to be receding in the city and remaining suburbs. Robbins

Among the towns hardest hit by the flooding on Tuesday is south suburban Robbins.

Some residents have been evacuated from their homes.

More than a dozen people were brought to the Robbins Community Center and many will have to stay there for the night, which is becoming routine as the area continues to flood. They hope that won't be the case this time.

This is the third time in the year that the land around Keith Colquitt's house has been flooded.

"Everything in my garage is flooded," said Colquitt.

Colquitt lives in a low-lying area in part of the village that's notorious for flooding. This latest round of storms that started Monday night is making the flooding even worse. Most of the stores were evacuated on Troy Street on Tuesday.

"We couldn't even get out of our house. They had to take us out in a boat today," said Vanessa Banks, Robbins resident.

"We have to do something about this problem now because it's persistent and it's getting worse," said Shantiel Simon.

Simon, who is a city trustee, would like to see the residents relocated and the area built up by developers but many lots are underwater.

"We don't have the money," said Irene Brodie, mayor of Robbins.

The mayor says the village just doesn't have the funds to fix the infrastructure but she is lobbying the state and federal government for help.

"When you say about these people, young men and women, it's not that anybody's ignoring them, it's what can we do to keep us afloat?" said Mayor Brodie.

Mayor Brodie stopped by the community center on Tuesday afternoon and tried to arrange the shelter situation with the Red Cross. But those at the center say they just want to get back in their homes as soon as possible.

City Flooding

Residents in the Albany Park community are hoping the North branch of the Chicago River stays in its banks.

That area was declared a disaster area after the big flood last September.

The Chicago River runs through Albany Park where sandbags are stacked.

The river levels have been steady on Tuesday. The city water department measured the water around noon and the levels had actually gone down by two feet. Regardless, though, the city is prepared.

Taking advantage of the midday break from the rain, some Albany Park residents came down to make sure the river is not on the same path as last September.

No one in the neighborhood will forget when it rained several inches in a short time.

"We got 29 inches in the basement and that was terrible. The alderman has been having meetings about doing something about this and I hope something is done about it," said Raynay Victor, Albany Park resident.

The city is not expecting a repeat performance on Tuesday. City water department crews have kept a close eye on the river levels all day and plenty of sand bags are already in place.

"Every half an hour, we're making sure that the water level is either receding or increasing and right now it's receding. We're in good shape as long as Mother Nature cooperates," said Pat Esposito, Dept. of Water Management.

And sewer trucks are out cleaning basins and making sure the rain blocker system works. The rain blocking system was put in place to keep water on the streets rather than back up in people's basements.

"It holds the water on the street for about three hours. It slowly regulates the water into our sewer system," said John Spatz, Chicago water commissioner.

Fortunately, flooding is only reserved for a nearby park where the ducks seemed to be enjoying it. Regardless, the city is not about to take any chances.

"I think what they're going to do is overcompensate. There are requesting sand bags everywhere and they're going to waste a ton of money," said Greg Szofer, Albany Park resident.

Naperville Flooding

Naperville emergency management officials were reporting no major flooding damage. But the river was flowing fast.

While the worst may have passed, business owners say that they are still worried. In downtown Naperville, workers were watching the river and hoping it didn't creep closer.

Chris Meyers says all of the business owners strictly monitor the river. During heavy rains, they position sandbags.

"They actually called ahead to let us know they were cracking open the dam," said Meyers, who owns Cookie Dough Creations in Naperville.

Storm water management officials could open dams in another part of the river which would make that part rise. But officials say those dams should stay closed because the waters there have crested.

"Comparatively to September, we're holding out, but we're still anticipating more heavy duty severe storms coming up between now and this afternoon and some high winds as well," said David Szablewski, Naperville emergency preparedness coordinator.

Some basements near the Naperville Riverwalk have pumps to get water out. One main Naperville road remained closed for high water. And in one residential neighborhood, people were praying the rising water in yards does not get worse.

"Hopefully it will go down quickly," said Sunny Ahn, Naperville.

In Naperville, for the most part, the rain stopped around 6:30 a.m., but the heavy, inconsistent rains are definitely making those levels of the water rise at the Dupage River. Business owners along Naperville's Riverwalk say they are doing everything they can as far as sandbagging, but they also know that there is only so much they can control.

"Hope, for right now, it's all we could do for right now. Any more sandbags won't make a difference," said James Alexander, manager, Peanuts Bar & Grill.

Alexander and his co-workers at Peanut's spent several hours piling up more than a thousand bags to protect the popular watering hole along the Dupage River. Naperville crews have been busy since the weekend rain sent the river spilling over its banks. Half of Naperville's 9/11 Memorial was underwater. Crews have built sandbag walls around dozens of businesses and buildings along the river. They have more sandbags ready if the river rises further.

"We have been very proactive. Our city crews have been out all weekend long, clearing debris from our grates, clearing the inlets and trying to make sure that the water is able to be absorbed into the ground," said Nadja Lalvani, Naperville spokesperson.

This is the third time since September that the Dupage River has spilled beyond its banks.

"We're just hoping that we don't get too much and they don't open up the dam and that we really flood it way up to the house and get it to the crawl space again," said Neda Darwish, Sugar Monkey Cupcakes.

Naperville has gotten about six inches of rain in the past few weeks.