suntimes
DRAFTY 
Weather Updates

‘Why is this happening?’ Chicago area residents deluged with rain, floods

Gov. PQuinn declares state emergency severely flood areas announced thstate agencies are providing assistance local governments. | Buzz Orr~Sun-Times Media

Gov. Pat Quinn declares a state of emergency in severely flood areas and announced that state agencies are providing assistance to local governments. | Buzz Orr~Sun-Times Media

storyidforme: 47911955
tmspicid: 17770842
fileheaderid: 8005933

Updated: May 20, 2013 7:40PM



When he saw the dream house he’d already put a deposit on partially submerged in rainwater Thursday, Joe Stoffey began to swear under his breath. “Why is this happening?” he thought.

His girlfriend, Chrissy Wild, began to cry.

The for sale sign in front of the two-and-a-half-story New Lenox home was submerged up to the realtor’s name. A small lake prevented the couple from checking the damage. So they left and returned with an inflatable kiddie pool and two cedar planks. A boat and oars.

They floated their makeshift vessel to the front doorstep, not knowing what to expect.

The owner, a man who’d sent his pregnant wife to higher ground hours earlier and was stranded at the home, came outside.

“Hello. We’re not crazy. We’re just checking on you, and we’re buying the house from you,” said Wild, 30, who’s training to be a nurse.

“He welcomed us onto the deck and he offered us a beer and we talked to him for a little bit,” said Stoffey, 30.

“The garage and first floor had flooded. But he said they’re going to make sure everything’s cleaned up and taken care of before the closing,” continued Stoffey, an oil refinery worker.

Other homeowners across the entire Chicago area were also bailing out after a 48-hour deluge deposited more than five-and-a-half inches of rain at O’Hare Airport, flooding at least 1,200 Chicago basements and thousands of suburban homes.

Though the rain tapered off Thursday night, the misery will continue. The National Weather Service issued an “areal” flood warning through 7:30 a.m. Friday.

“The areal flood warning is to let people know they have to be cautious of the water that’s already on the ground that’s running off into area rivers and streams,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Mark Ratzer. Sporadic light showers are expected Friday.

Areas near rivers, lakes and retention ponds were hardest hit.

In Des Plaines, the Des Plaines River was five feet above flood stage and was forecast to rise another foot-and-a-half by Friday morning.

Officials from Lombard, Schiller Park, Elmhurst, River Grove, Gurnee, Villa Park and Des Plaines said their towns were swamped with flooded streets and advised residents to stay home and visitors to stay out.

Beyond the Chicago-area, London Mills — a town just west of Peoria — was being evacuated after a levee breach there Thursday night.

Gov. Pat Quinn declared a state of emergency, enabling state personnel to aid local governments, but flood victims should not expect any financial aid soon. Quinn’s administration is still several steps away from being able to submit a request for federal disaster assistance for flood-ravaged Chicago-area homeowners and businesses, said Patti Thompson, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Emergency Management Agency.

State teams will assess damage and then make a determination whether to seek help from Washington, which could eventually yield grants and low-interest loans for homeowners and businesses with storm damage, she said.

On the North Side, the Chicago River rose by roughly six feet, forcing the Water Reclamation District to open the locks and reverse the flow of water back toward Lake Michigan.

In Albany Park, the river was a foot over flood stage, filling basements for up to a block south of the river’s bank in several places.

The Edens Expressway, sections of the Eisenhower Expressway and other highways were shut down by flooding but by afternoon, all expressways except the Bishop Ford had been reopened.

And on the far Southeast Side, a large sinkhole swallowed several cars and one person was injured.

But the suburbs got the worst of it.

In west suburban Westchester, about 3,500 homes near Salt Creek were “submerged,” said Mayor Sam Pulia, comparing the storm to the one that caused similar damage there in 2010.

“It’s deja vu,” said Pulia. “Someone maybe got four feet instead of six feet in their basement, but what’s the difference? It’s still ruined.”

Further west, in Glen Ellyn, Lake Ellyn overflowed its northern bank, spilling water down Grand Avenue and Lake Road toward the homes below.

“It’s higher than I’ve ever seen it,” said Erin O’Connor, a 26-year resident. “They call it a hundred-year flood, but they’ve had five of these since we’ve been here.”

In Elmhurst, a block of houses on Spring Road near Salt Creek was swamped, while others nearby suffered at least some water damage.

Kristin Wilmot said her home on the street received just enough seepage to ruin her basement carpeting, but she was grateful the damage wasn’t worse.

“We’re very blessed,” said Wilmot, as she surveyed the flooded street from her waterlogged front lawn. “We watched some people down the street leave in boats.”

Boats were also used in Lisle to evacuate several hundred residents from The Towers of Four Lakes Village high-rise development after water knocked out the buildings’ electricity. “This is the worst I’ve seen the flooding,” said Mayor Joe Broda, who’s lived in the suburb for 35 years.

About 75 residents were taken to Benedictine University, which established an emergency shelter. The flooding affected at least “50 to 100” homes in Lisle, Broda said.

In south suburban Robbins, firefighters dragged an inflatable boat carrying a pregnant woman who was rescued along with five others from a flooded home. Twenty people were rescued from a three-block flooded zone.

In the near-western suburb of River Forest, about 50 volunteers helped village workers pile sandbags to protect the intersection of Chicago and Thatcher. Mark Janopoulos, River Forest’s superintendent of public works, said the water was expected to crest more than a foot above its all-time high.

Residents in downtown Geneva were piling up sandbags along the swelling Fox River.

And back in New Lenox, Stoffey and Wild, after some soul searching, said they will go ahead with the purchase of their flooded home. “We still want it. We still love it. The good things in life are worth fighting for,” said Wild.

And when they move in, they plan to put a framed picture of Friday’s Sun-Times cover on the wall of their new house.

Contributing: Stefano Esposito, Jon Seidel, Frank Main, Dave McKinney, Tina Sfondeles, Allison Horton, Brian Slodysko and Sam Charles



© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit www.suntimesreprints.com. To order a reprint of this article, click here.