Rain, wind, and more rain bring misery to Fox Valley
By Dave Gathman and Mike Danahey firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com April 18, 2013 6:52AM
Local firefighters check on a resident along the Fox River in South Elgin Thursday, after heavy rains saturated the area. April 18, 2013 | Michael Smart~Sun-Times Media
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Updated: May 20, 2013 7:41PM
Sandbagging around homes has begun as Fox River flooding hit four areas of Kane County, the county’s Office of Emergency Management reported at 10:30 a.m. Thursday. And in the city of Elgin, creek flooding has caused two homes to be evacuated and several streets to be closed, including the Raymond Street connection between Elgin and South Elgin.
More than 4 inches of rain has fallen over the past 24 hours across parts of Kane County and the rest of the Fox Valley, and another 1-2 inches was expected to fall throughout the day Thursday.
“Sandbagging efforts are underway along the Fox River in the Valley View area north of St Charles, South Elgin, Algonquin and the Dundee area,” said a Kane OEM announcement. “River levels are expected to rise over the next few days. Anyone living along the low-lying areas near the river is encouraged to make plans to evacuate should water levels continue to rise. Areas that are already flooded will only get worse.
“Fire and law enforcement personnel encourage people not to wait until they need to be rescued to make the decision to move to higher ground.”
To get sandbags, the Kane County OEM said people who live in incorporated municipalities should call their village or city, while those living in unincorporated areas should call 630-208-8911.
Gov. Pat Quinn will be touring the Fox Valley’s flood-ravaged area today, according to state Rep. Kay Hatcher.
Evacuations in Elgin
In Elgin itself, the lay of the land means that the biggest flooding threat comes not from the Fox River but from Tyler Creek on the city’s northwest side and Poplar Creek on the city’s southeast side.
Karen Flanagan, coordinator of the Elgin Office of Emergency Management, warned at noontime Thursday that both creeks are more than 2 feet above normal levels and with the ground already saturated, they pose danger of more flooding.
“Residents in all of the city’s low-lying areas should be prepared to find emergency shelter if necessary and stay informed,” Flanagan said.
The latest impact from that came at about 1 p.m. Thursday as Raymond Street, the most direct connection between South Elgin and Elgin’s east side, was closed at Purify Drive because of flooding from Poplar Creek.
Tyler Creek was out of its banks in Eagle Heights subdivision and on the Judson University campus. Poplar Creek was outside its banks and flooding the Unity Park area near Hammond Avenue and Illinois Avenue.
Due to flooding close to the creek, the Elgin Fire Department evacuated two homes on Mark Avenue early Thursday morning. Those residents are seeking shelter with other families, Flanagan said.
Elgin streets closed as of about noon included: the Royal Boulevard bridge over Tyler Creek; numerous streets in the Hammond-Indiana Avenue area; Alft Lane; Willard Avenue from Anderson to Laurel; Kirk Avenue from Kramer to Houston; Ramona Avenue; Varsity Drive from Maroon to Woodview; Eagle Road; and several streets east of Sadler Avenue and north of Villa Street.
Flanagan said sandbags are being made available to Elgin residents at no charge. Pallets of sandbags have been staged at the east driveway entrance to the Elgin Public Works facility at 1900 Holmes Road, Elgin. However, she said, residents should be prepared to pick up and load the sandbags themselves, because city employees are busy responding to other flood issues.
Elgin Water Director Kyla Jacobsen said at noon that “we have now gone through five full pallets — at about 50 per pallet — of sandbags. Our total stock is down to 24 pallets, which is more than enough to see us through this event.”
Elgin residents who have safety concerns about flooding in their homes should contact the police department at 847-289-2700.
Flanagan said that it has been the city’s experience that people prefer to stay with relatives in an emergency, but if anyone needs a place to stay, they can call the city for the latest resources being provided by the city.
Walton Islands were almost entirely submerged by the fast-running Fox, with only the American flag visible above the islands’ tip at the foot of the Kimball Street Dam.
The city said it will provide updates through the day at www.cityofelgin.org as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
Storm sewers working at capacity in Elgin
Jacobsen said the city received 3.5 inches of rain overnight, with more falling this morning — and the river not expected to crest until Saturday with another 2 feet of water. As such, the city’s storm sewers were working at capacity, Jacobsen said.
Jacobsen also said that there had been no reports thus far of severely flooded basements in older parts of the city that still have combined sewer systems.
The city also has a list of areas that frequently flood under such weather conditions and which will be checked periodically throughout the day.
“We only have one truck capable of jetting (storm sewers) in the biggest rainfall we have seen in years,” she said, adding this for residents: “Please be patient, we will work as hard and fast as we can to get to every call eventually. I have every employee on flooding today, and the street department will be scraping grates throughout the city to help.”
“Unfortunately, 90 percent of these issues are due to high water levels in the natural waterways. All affected sanitary lines in troubled areas are being closely monitored and jetted as necessary. In the North Commonwealth (Avenue) area, we are experiencing some surface infiltration from flooded areas into the sanitary. This was expected in a storm of this volume, and we have all been on the street in this area answering questions from residents and helping out with what we can. Overall, the reception has been understanding and grateful for our efforts. The Brookside (Drive) area is also experiencing high flow levels and the smart cover was alarming for most of the morning. Unfortunately, there is nothing we can do in that area, it is over capacity. In normal circumstances, Brookside is probably 80 percent capacity anyway.”
Mayor Dave Kaptain said he drove around the city for about an hour early Thursday to survey the soggy situation. He noticed that Willard Avenue on the city’s east side was flooded from Chicago to Villa.
Kaptain said he also spotted hoses coming out of basements in neighborhood near Wing Park that includes Murray and Commonwealth. Kaptain said the city had commissioned a study that noted the bowl-like area has poor soil and needs several million dollars in infrastructure work to fix.
South Elgin floods
In South Elgin, a fire call went out about 9:20 a.m. seeking boats to evacuate people from two homes along West Drive. Flooding also was reported along River Road, Wood Row and Chipstone Avenue, all near the Fox River on the village’s north side, and near the Village Hall Annex near State Street and the river.
South Elgin public works personnel were filling sandbags and loading up barricades, and officials said some streets were being closed to traffic because of high water on them.
Some residents already had come to the public works garage at the north end of Martin Drive this morning to get sandbags. Residents can fill the bags with sand there at no charge.
South Elgin resident Valerie Brancecum was on her way to buy some waders early Thursday afternoon as she hoped to begin working on cleaning up the flooded basement of her family’s home on Spring Avenue.
“We’ve lived here 15 years, and my husband’s family has had a home at this spot for 50 years, and this is the worst flooding we’ve seen,” Brancecum said. “I can’t see a blade of grass as water is surrounding our house. The storm drain in the park by our house isn’t emptying.”
Brancecum said five or so homes in the nearby area seemed to be dealing with flooding matters. In the morning, police and fire department workers had been to the area, and by early afternoon public works staff had barricaded the street and dropped off sand and bags for the homeowners to use, she said.
Brancecum said the family lost their home to a fire in December 2006 and rebuilt with flooding in mind. Still, water in the concrete unfinished basement was knee-high and covering the bottom half of a washer and a dryer, and had ruined items being stored — even though those had been kept raised 5 inches above the floor.
Brancecum was able to get one of the family’s dogs to leave the house. But their big Mastiff was left skittish by the storms and was still inside while the family tried to figure out how to get him to exit.
St. Charles hurting
In St. Charles, city officials reported the river level stood at 19 feet, 1 inch late Thursday morning. The flood stage there is 18 feet, 3 inches.
“Crews worked throughout the night to close off flooded streets and answer emergency calls,” said St. Charles City Administrator Brian Townsend. “So far there have been no power outages, just a few momentary power disruptions. In neighborhoods where excessive flooding has occurred, city personnel are assisting homeowners.”
Townsend said there are areas of localized flooding, particularly near the Seventh Avenue creek. Sandbags have been delivered to the area for residents to help. “It is important to remember that the stormwater system is designed to handle moderate to heavy rain events. This event is extreme and is taxing systems across the region,” said Townsend. He said sandbags also are available at the city’s Public Works facility, 200 Devereaux Way.
Streets closed in St. Charles include Tyler Road at the railroad crossing; sections of Illinois Avenue between Seventh and 13th avenues; and the Illinois Street Bridge. St. Charles Park District also has closed Boy Scout Island.
Issues north of Elgin, and elsewhere
Metra, meanwhile, reported that trains running on the Union Pacific West Line to Geneva and Elburn were still running 80 minutes behind schedule at the noon hour because of signal problems and weather-related conditions. The Union Pacific Northwest Line to Crystal Lake and Harvard was doing even worse, with two-hour delays. Service on the Milwaukee District West Line to Elgin was running about normally.
In West Dundee, around lunchtime, South End Park was partially under water, as was the parking lot by Village Squire and part of the adjacent North First Street. The town’s riverwalk was mostly covered by the swollen Fox River, too.
While West Dundee Public Works Director Richard Babica said this storm hasn’t been as bad as the notable one in 2007, “it’s close, and it can get there relatively quickly.”
So far, the village hasn’t enacted any mutual aid requests, but “some of our adjacent communities have, like Algonquin,” Babica said.
West Dundee has been receiving assistance from the Kane County Office of Emergency Management. “And we’ve been communicating with communities up and down the Fox River pretty rapidly,” Babica said. “That was a lesson we learned in 2007 that we need to increase the communication.”
He urged parents to keep children away from the Fox River and creeks.
“It’s extremely fast-flowing water and a very dangerous situation,” he said. “It’s not an area for children to be playing in or near. I cannot stress enough the importance of the public to stay away from the Fox River and the creeks.”
And for drivers, Babica said “if you see standing water on the roadways, it’s better to go around than to go through it.”
Immediate flooding issues in West Dundee included North First Street between Route 72 and North Sixth Street, where there is flooding on the roadways, the parking lots and along the riverwalk; and portions of Edwards Avenue.
Public Works officials have delivered sand and sandbags to some properties in the village, including the vacant Clearwater Theater and the Somata building.
“We’re also doing preparatory sandbagging along two of our lift stations along the Fox River,” Babica said. “We’d rather be too prepared than not prepared enough. We’re definitely going to be monitoring the situation and providing assistance to homeowners and property owners for several days.”
Meanwhile, residents of the unincorporated Richardson subdivision just south of East Dundee were dealing with extensive flooding, with part of Duncan/Elgin Avenue under water as well.
In East Dundee, the flooding is “not as bad as it’s been in the past,” according to incoming Village President Lael Miller.
“There are a couple of areas where we’re pumping water and sandbagging,” he said. “The (Fox River) is very high right now, but we don’t have any extensive flooding right now. And we’re prepared.”
While Miller said this is a heavy rain event, he said no roads in the village have been closed — as was the case in Carpentersville, according to police Cmdr. Timothy Bosshart.
“And we don’t have any houses under water,” Miller said. “We do have some people pumping their basements out.” Those included the basement at Rosie O’Hare’s Public House along North River Street near the footbridge across the Fox.
In East Dundee, Village Administrator Bob Skurla said residents can pick up free sandbags and sand from the village.
“We are getting a flooded basement here and there but it hasn’t been as bad as we were worried it could get,” he said. “It was predicted the Fox River could raise two feet and crest by Saturday night. If it does go up another foot and a half we could be in trouble.”
Village officials said those who have basements may very easily experience sewer back ups and/or flooding in their yards.
East Dundee residents can pick up the sandbags between 6 a.m. and 4 p.m. at the Village Public Works garage located at 446 Elgin Ave. They are also available 24 hours a day at the East Dundee Fire Station parking lot at Railroad and Third streets.
Additionally, the village has a supply of stormwater clean-up kits that can be obtained at the Village Hall, at 120 Barrington Ave.
Officials said there is a strong chance that parts of Elgin Avenue and Water Street may be closed off over the next few days so residents are urged to make appropriate alternative travel plans if they use either of these two streets.
Those who are experiencing flood-related emergencies should contact Village Hall at 847-426-2822.
Worse in north
Flooding was worse in the far north reaches of the Fox River. At the Algonquin dam, the flood level is 9.5 feet. The National Weather Service reported the actual level was 11.78 feet as of about 8 a.m. Thursday, and staffers projected the level would continue to rise until it reached a crest of 13.9 feet on Saturday.
Areas south of Algonquin probably can expect similar rises a day or two later, although flooding levels vary depending on the terrain around each section of the river.
The McHenry County Sheriff’s Office reported in the early afternoon that Algonquin Road between Route 31 and Pyott Road has been reopened but still has water on the roadway. Kemman Road had been “washed out” and closed north of Van Der Karr Road.
McHenry County also warned about high standing water at Terra Cotta Road and Route 176 near Crystal Lake, and on about 20 roads in the Marengo, Harvard, Chemung and Woodstock areas, including Route 20 at County Line Road in Marengo.
Kane County Sheriff’s Office officials said a number of Kane roads have been closed but they did not yet have a complete listing.
DuPage County seemed to have received more rain overnight than northern Kane County did, and many school districts canceled classes for Thursday in DuPage County.
Some 24-hour rainfall totals as of 8 a.m. Thursday included 5.9 inches at Carol Stream, 4.7 inches in Rockford, 3.9 inches in McHenry and 4.7 inches in Des Plaines.
Kane County OEM officials said that “we also want to remind people that driving through flooded roadways can be dangerous. While you may think the roadway is passable, the water tends to be deeper than you think and can hide hazards that can disable your car in the middle of the flooded roadway.”
Correspondent Erin Sauder contributed to this story.