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Cleanup begins after record-high river levels

Published: Tuesday, April 23, 2013 9:16 a.m. CST

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(MCT) ­— As many Chicago-area residents cleaned up after torrential rains last week led to record-high river levels and flooding, some communities were still adding sandbags to makeshift levees — and forecasters warn more rain may be coming.

River flooding is expected to subside through the week, however, after record-high flooding along most waterways in the Chicago area.

Flood warnings remained in effect for the Des Plaines River in Lake and Cook counties, the DuPage River in DuPage and Will counties, the Fox River in McHenry, Kane, Kendall and LaSalle Counties, and the Illinois, Kankakee, Kishwaukee, Pecatonica and Rock rivers in other parts of northern Illinois.

This morning, in Wheaton, officials had about 1,500 people evacuate the Briarcliffe subdivision in the southern part of the city, but by about 9 a.m. had been able to repair and check a breached levee in a retention pond and residents were allowed to return.

In the Crystal Lake area, officials called for volunteers to help fill sandbags as area waterways remained high.

“Major flooding continues [at] many locations of the Des Plaines and Fox Rivers,” according to the National Weather Service, but even with thunderstorms forecast for overnight Monday into Tuesday, the high water is forecast to continue receding.

Roads remained closed in several areas, including Des Plaines, Gurnee, and Bolingbrook. Other suburbs, such as Aurora and Joliet, reported all roads open again as of this morning. Official updates for Chicago were not available from the Office of Emergency Management and Communications midday today, and the city of Chicago’s website had no real-time emergency road closings information posted today.

Residents were still cleaning up from floodwaters in several areas of DuPage County on Sunday. Large industrial-sized construction Dumpsters were parked on the street and in the driveways of homes near Brentwood and Cheshire Lanes in Wheaton.

In her 18 years living near Briarcliffe Boulevard, Lill Malan said she had never seen such a flood.

“Gosh, no,” said Malan. “It’s been so bad, there were fish being washed out into the street.”

Randy Rasmussen has lived in his Wheaton home since 1999. Water reached the ceiling of his finished basement, he said.

“It was just gushing,” said Peggy Rasmussen. “But we’re fortunate to all be safe. We were home at the time and were able to move a lot of valuables up from the basement.”

Adjacent to Wheaton, the village of Glen Ellyn was still feeling the effects of the storm.

“This was a surprise,” said Nancy Fritz. “There’s no place to put the water any more. I think some of this was due to the new construction at College of DuPage.”

A construction project on the southwest corner of the college campus abuts a wetland area and a retention pond. Police had to evacuate an adjacent townhome neighborhood when part of the berm failed, residents said.

Naperville homeowners also were busy sopping up water Sunday. Rolls of carpeting were stacked neatly at the curb in front of many residences in the neighborhood south of Edward Hospital.

Scott McGonagle moved from another area of Naperville to his current home about a year ago. “We knew this area took water,” McGonagle said. “But we’re going to be staying.”

One of the hardest-hit areas in Chicago was the Albany Park neighborhood on the Northwest Side. Sunday, with piles of sandbags and an overflowing Chicago River in the background, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and representatives of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District announced plans to move ahead on constructing a tunnel that officials say will curtail future floods.

“This is the right type of fix that needs to happen, the right investment,” Emanuel said, “so that people do not have their lives disrupted every five years.”

Emanuel said the tunnel, expected to cost between $45 and $55 million, will provide security for those with riverside homes. Construction, expected to take 18 to 24 months, could start next year.

The tunnel would extend east under Foster Street for about a mile, according to the mayor’s office, reaching from Eugene Park to the North Shore Channel. The city and the MWRD have already committed $40 million to the project, according to a release from the mayor’s office.

The Des Plaines, Chicago, Illinois, DuPage and Vermillion rivers all saw record-high levels last week, according to the National Weather Service. The North Branch of the Chicago River crested Friday at 8.57 feet, besting a record 7.86 feet set in 2008. The Des Plaines River at Des Plaines crested at 10.92 feet, above the 1986 level of 10.88 feet, and at Riverside, it crested at 11.42 feet, above 1987’s 9.9 feet. The DuPage River at Bolingbrook crested at 25.85 feet, above 2008’s 24.04 feet.

Chicago set a record for rain over a two-day period in April, with 5.55 inches of rain Wednesday and Thursday, and the most rain ever on April 17, 2.01 inches, according to the National Weather Service.

Since the records were set, water levels have been going down, with the Des Plaines River down to 10.2 feet and 9.13 feet at Riverside, according to the Weather Service.

After a sunny day in the mid-50s today, the next chance for rain starts Monday night, with a chance of showers and a slight chance of thunderstorms in the Chicago area. Showers and thunderstorms are likely Tuesday, with a high in the lower 50s. Temperatures are expected to hover in the 50s this week, possibly inching back up closer to a normal high in the 60s next weekend.

———Freelance reporter Gary Gibula contributed

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