Weather Updates

In flooding aftermath, some roads still closed as cleanup continues

A WKRS vehicle parking lot radio station. | Michael Schmidt~Sun-Times Media

A WKRS vehicle in the parking lot of the radio station. | Michael Schmidt~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: May 23, 2013 6:45AM

Four days after heavy rains flooded the Chicago region, Des Plaines officials said many of their roads remained impassable at the Des Plaines River on Sunday night.

Only Miner and Touhy offered east-west passage across Des Plaines, a police official said. However, she noted traffic on both streets was “horrendous.” Evacuated residents, meanwhile, have not been able to return to their homes because “the water’s only gone down about an inch.”

The Des Plaines River was at 9.98 feet Sunday night in Des Plaines, according to readings by the National Weather Service — that’s nearly twice its flood stage.

In west suburban Lisle, the Morton Arboretum reopened Sunday afternoon after being closed for three days because of significant flood damage from last week’s storms. The main entrance and parking lot were under several feet of water after the east branch of the DuPage River rose 10 feet, two feet higher than the all-time record, according to a release from a Morton Arboretum spokeswoman.

The arboretum will resume normal business hours Monday, the release said, though cleanup work and damage assessment are continuing.

Three and a half feet of water flooded the Research Center and damaged the building’s mechanical system and controls. Water was still being pumped out as of Sunday afternoon. Some trails were also still undergoing repair, though the trees and plants were not expected to have any long-term damage. Telephone and computer systems have not been completely restored and are expected to remain down for several days, the release said. The arboretum was forced to cancel all weekend events, including the Arbor Day 10k and Ecofest, the release said. The 10k will not be rescheduled.

In the northwest suburbs, Algonquin reported continued flooding early Sunday morning along the Fox River, but other communities said they had continued to see water levels drop following last week’s heavy rains.

The National Weather Service said that the Fox River was expected to crest Sunday afternoon at 12.8 feet in Algonquin, lower than previously projected. Flood stage there is 9.5 feet.

That location, and the lock and dam in McHenry County, were the only spots along the Fox River still showing major flooding as of Sunday afternoon, according to the Romeoville-based weather service.

Up and down the Fox Valley, other communities said Sunday the water had receded significantly from Thursday and Friday’s highs.

“The Fox River is supposed to be peaking today, but a lot of our tributaries, Poplar and Tyler creek . . . our observation is that they are subsiding,” said Elgin Fire Battalion Chief Tim Michaels. “We haven’t had any more emergencies. After today, we are thinking the worst has past us.”

In Bartlett, a portion of Munger Road was closed during flooding and some village sidewalks were under water, said Battalion Chief Mike Clarke. No problems were reported as of Sunday, he said.

South Elgin, which saw about 80 houses along the Fox River either threatened with water or experience some flooding, said street were dry as of Sunday. “The Fox River . . . is way down from the other day, streets are looking dry all of the way through,” said Lt. Allen Etheridge of the South Elgin & Countryside Fire Protection District.

Farther out in the northwest suburbs, the Chain O’ Lakes and Fox River flooding was one for the record books. The Fox River was expected to crest Monday just above the 8-foot mark set in 1960.

Bonnie Evanson, who has lived in her house on the east side of the Grand Avenue bridge in Fox Lake since 1945, said she has never had to sandbag, not even in 1960. But this time, the rising tide caught her and she raced down to the village public works department to haul sandbags to her home with other family members.

“I didn’t think it was going to come up so fast,” she said. “I’ve been here my whole life and never had to sandbag. Luckily, I didn’t finish my basement so I’m not going to have to tear out drywall.”

Grand Avenue in downtown Fox Lake was flooding Sunday and had to be closed and most of Lakeland Plaza was under water. The Knollwood subdivision was probably one of the hardest hit areas and most people had either evacuated or threw up their hands. Access was only available by boat.

“They expect it to crest Monday early afternoon,” said Nancy Schuerr, village administrator. “Then, it’s going to go down very slowly,” she said.

Back at Evanson’s house, just about all of her 16 acres were under water and small mud ducks called coots were swimming about with some geese. “We always just made it, but not this time,” she said. “Now it’s just water from here all the way to Chain O’ Lakes Marine and Fox Lake Harbor,” she said, noting that the harbor’s owners lived across the channel from her and the water came too fast for them and they now have water in the house for the first time.

Annette Wolf, the village’s emergency management director, said they have just over 300 homes affected by the flooding. “We filled 30,000 sand bags as of today,” she said Sunday.

Kent McKenzie, the county disaster agency director, said the water levels were just an inch under the 8 foot record set in 1960 and it was not going to crest until Monday afternoon.

Of the Fox Lake area damage, he said, “It’s just overwhelming.”

The Des Plaines River has crested, but there were still roadways covered in water. In Gurnee, Grand Avenue between Routes 41 and 21 was closed and was expected to stay that way Monday and Route 41 from Route 21 to Delany Road was expected to be closed, but the southbound lanes may open up. Gurnee officials were telling people to leave their sandbags in place until later this week just in case another storm develops.

In Libertyville, Oak Spring Road was closed west from St. Mary’s Road due to water on the roadway and the Rawson Bridge Road just west of Wauconda in McHenry County was closed because of water on the pavement. Rumors that the Libertyville Estates levee was in trouble were false and it has worked the way it is supposed to, said officials. In Lincolnshire, a berm protecting a neighborhood of over 300 homes burst and those people were evacuated last week.

Scheurr said the number of volunteers that came out, including the young men and women from the police and fire department’s explorer groups and Cub Scouts and others, was just incredible. “We just want to tell those people, ‘Thank you very much. We truly appreciated your help,” she said.

Southwest of Chicago, Morris Hospital officials estimated cleanup costs at $1 million after floodwaters forced evacuation of patients.

The waters reached only about 3 or 4 inches Thursday after they cascading in from the swamped loading dock, but that was enough to force officials to relocate 47 patients, hospital spokeswoman Janet Long said Sunday morning. Of those 47 patients, 22 were well enough to be discharged, Long said. The rest were sent to six other hospitals.

Long and hospital President and CEO Mark Steadham led an early morning Sunday tour of the soggy lower level. Steadham said he expected the cleanup to last a week. About 75,000 square feet must be cleaned, Long said. About 25,000 square feet of carpeting must be replaced, Steadham said.

The lower level is where the hospital’s kitchen is located and, perhaps more important, the hospital’s lab that quickly provides test results needed to properly care for patients who are in-house, Long said.

“The lab is the priority, that’s where our main focus is right now,” Long said. “We need to have the ability to process tests on-site for patient care.”

Until the lab is cleaned and ready for use, testing can’t be done there.

An industrial hygeneist will eventually be asked to certify with the Illinois Department of Public Health that it’s safe to return. The stale humid smell of flood waters still hung in the air Sunday. Long plastic tubes hung from ceilings, pumping in clean dry air to force out the humid air, Long said.

Flooding reminded personnel of a 2008 storm when the parking lot filled with water. But water did not enter the building through the loading dock as it did Thursday, Long said.

The water was about 7 feet deep in the part of the loading dock where trucks back in to drop off supplies, Steadham said. The water crested the dock and began seeping inside, he said.

“Once the temporary dike we had built gave way, the water just came rushing down toward the dock,” Steadham said.

In Channahon, which like Morris had extensive flooding, residents of 43 homes who live near a dam on the DuPage River were evacuated from their homes as a precaution. They have returned safely, Mayor Joe Cook said.

The cleanup continued Sunday under bright blue and sunny skies, Cook said. “Folks are trying to get their lives back to normal,” Cook said.

The mostly earthen dam was shored up, preventing a dreaded breach that could have proven disastrous, Cook said. But work is needed to make temporary repairs more permanent, the mayor said. He plans to seek state and federal funding if available.

Once the flood water recedes, Cook expects volunteers will rally to clean up areas like Channahon State Park, located near the dam. “We take a lot of pride in our town,” Cook said.

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