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Weary flood victims worry more trouble on the way

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Updated: May 24, 2013 6:37AM



His basement was nearly full, but the floodwater flowing through the ground floor of Zbigniew Wojslaw’s home receded Monday after the Des Plaines River dropped from its record level.

Wojslaw still was doing little cleanup because forecasts call for storms Tuesday to drop more rain — maybe as much as an inch — across the waterlogged Chicago area.

Wojslaw and some of his neighbors on hard-hit Big Bend Drive in Des Plaines were nervously watching to see if the storms expected to sweep across the region would raise the river enough to cause new flooding.

“Rain here doesn’t bother me, rain up north worries me because it comes here. We don’t need more water,” said Wojslaw, 57, who retreated to his second floor when four inches of water covered the ground floor.

The new storms could bump river levels up as much as a foot in some areas, forecasters said, but a lot depends on where the rain falls and how fast it comes down.

A burst of heavy rain falling in a short span — an hour or two — likely would push floodwaters higher simply because there’s no other place for the water to go.

“The intensity is important [because] the ground is pretty saturated,” said Bill Morris, a National Weather Service hydrologist.

The storms rolling through the region Tuesday morning aren’t expected to be powerful enough to raise the Des Plaines River, Fox River and other area waterways as high as they were last week.

“We’re not expecting to get to the record levels we saw,” said Morris.

That’s a relief to Urszula Jurczyk and her family, who just returned Monday to their Big Bend Drive home to start cleaning up the damage caused by the foot of water that flooded their finished basement.

“We are like on an island now,” said Jurczyk, surveying the flooded street in front of her house and the swollen river behind it.

Her son and a group of friends were helping drag soaked carpeting out of the basement and mop up the film of water that remained.

They hoped the new storms wouldn’t trigger new flooding that would erase their progress.

“Hopefully, it’s not too bad. I don’t think it will cause any problems,” said her son, 18-year-old Dawid.

Down the street, 87-year-old Herbert Hapke wasn’t worried about new flooding because the high water had already done so much damage to his ranch home.

The floodwaters — the worst he’s seen in the 67 years he’s lived in the house — filled his basement and left all the carpeting on the ground floor soggy.

“What’s a little bit more?” Hapke asked, shrugging. “It can’t come up any higher than it has been.”

He and his cat, Pokey, stayed in the home anyway, piling furniture up and peeling back the rugs to try to keep them dry. They still had electricity, but the toilets were unusable and Hapke relied on the fireplace to help stay warm.

“It’s really bad, the worst we’ve had,” he said of the flooding.

The flooding was severe enough that Gov. Pat Quinn on Monday asked the federal government to help assess the damages in Cook, Lake and DuPage counties.

That’s required before state officials can formally seek federal disaster aid, officials said. Assessments will be done in other counties as floodwaters recede, Quinn said in a statement.



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