Cook County disaster proclamation issued as residents call for answers after flash flooding

Chicago rain sparked Severe Thunderstorm Warning Tuesday; more storms possible Wednesday

Tuesday, July 11, 2023
Cook County disaster proclamation issued after flash flooding
After flash floods across the Chicago area late last month into July, a disaster proclamation was issued for Cook County Tuesday.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Gov. JB Pritzker issued a disaster proclamation Tuesday for Cook County, along with a number of counties downstate after the severe weather from the end of June into July.

"Many Illinois communities suffered extensive damages due to last week's torrential rain and severe weather," Pritzker said in a statement. "To support those impacted across the state, I have signed a disaster proclamation to mobilize every available resource, accelerating the recovery process and providing relief for our residents. I want to thank IEMA-OHS for their ongoing coordination."

Beginning June 29, several rounds of severe storms passed through Illinois producing heavy rainfall, flash flooding, hail, tornadoes and straight-line winds, a news release from the governor's office said.

Central Illinois experienced a derecho that brought damaging straight-line winds resulting in five confirmed tornadoes, along with wind gusts in excess of 100 miles per hour across multiple counties, state officials said.

On July 2, additional severe storms dropped significant rainfall, causing flash flooding in and around the Chicago area. The storms also downed numerous trees and caused widespread power outages in northern Illinois, state officials said.

The high heat and humidity also caused shelters and other public places to open.

There were also some brief downpours on Tuesday that spurred a Severe Thunderstorm Warning for Cook County.

The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago called Tuesday an Overflow Action Day, asking residents to be aware of their water use during the rain.

West Side and west suburban residents are calling for answers after all the flooding.

For the past several days, Serve-Pro workers have been hauling water-logged items out of Alejandra Yanes' basement apartment.

It's been over a week since she and her family watched as the rain poured into their small two-bedroom residence in Cicero.

"We completely lost everything to the flood; water went up to my hips. We lost beds, couches. Everything is completely destroyed," Yanes said.

The 18 year old lived there with her grandparents, mom and two younger sisters. All are now living elsewhere, sharing rooms and sleeping on floors with relatives.

"My mom has blood cancer, so it is really stressing her out," Yanes said.

On behalf of her family, an emotional Yanes went to voice her concerns at the town of Cicero's Board of Trustees meeting Tuesday.

"We just want to be back in our homes, instead of being homeless or sleeping on floors; it's just hard," Yanes said.

Emotions were running high as dozens of angry residents demanded answers from Cicero public officials.

It was standing room only as flood victims voiced their frustrations. Town officials said their homes were flooded as well.

"We are all frustrated, we are mad, we are disappointed and yes many representatives here reached out to Water Reclamation District and yes we were given BS stories, too," Cicero Town Clerk Maria Punzo-Arias said.

Cicero officials told residents flooding problems are shared with Chicago, Berwyn and Oak Park, and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District is responsible for managing stormwater for all.

"Hopefully, hopefully fingers crossed, we can get everything fixed," Yanes said.

To get more answers on why so many homes flooded and how to prevent it in the future, the Cicero president plans to hold a town hall meeting with the Water Reclamation District. A date has not been set yet.

And people in Chicago's Austin community frustrated after last week's damaging floods packed the Columbus Park Refectory Tuesday morning.

Chicago residents dealing with damage from flooding packed a West Side meeting Tuesday.

Relief can't come fast enough for Yvette McCallum. Storms flooded her garden apartment in the 4800-block of Iowa Street.

"I lost everything," McCallum said. "I mean everything. Then the next day after the flood, I lost my car."

The Austin resident was one of many attending a morning meeting at the Columbus Park, looking for a reason why their neighborhoods keep flooding.

Heavy rains sparked flooding the weekend of July 2.

Officials with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District said they're doing everything they can.

"This area received 8 inches of rain in 12 hours," said Kari Steele, with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District. "That's unheard of. So it was simply too much stormwater in a short amount of time that had to get through local infrastructure."

But some of the flooded out residents aren't buying that and are calling for transparency from the agency.

SEE ALSO | Chicago flooding: Hundreds pack meeting in Austin about West Side problems, clean up

"The first thing we lost was our furnace, which cost $12,000," flood victim Jake Towers said. "This was not an act of God. We usually say this was an act of God. This was something that was done by the city."

The meeting was organized by Pastors Ira Acree and Marshall Hatch and their Leaders Network organization

Several aldermen and other elected officials renewed their calls for state and local government to step in and help by declaring a state of emergency in the affected areas.

Some said even nine days after the flooding, houses are still underwater. Some residents said insurance companies have told them their policies won't cover the damage to their homes.

That's bad news for these residents, as another round of heavy rain is expected Wednesday.

"They can't do nothing about the sentimental things, but I need the essentials are stuff I need," flood victim Denise Shorter said.