Sue Mongthaveephangsa waits for neighbors to help sandbag her property in the Albany Park neighborhood. (Tribune / E. Jason Wambsgans)
Rain-swollen rivers and creeks forced hundreds of voluntary evacuations across the Chicago region today, damaged homes and at least one architectural landmark, left two Indiana men drowned in a drainage ditch, and triggered emergency declarations in half a dozen Illinois communities and all of Cook County.
Fire officials in Chesterton, Ind., near Indiana Dunes State Park, confirmed that two men there died, apparently drowning in a flooded drainage ditch, but details were not available.
Evacuations were carried out today in Des Plaines and Riverside along the Des Plaines River, in the Albany Park neighborhood along the Chicago River, in north suburban Glenview along the west fork of the north branch of the Chicago River, and in west suburban Addison along Salt Creek.
"I have never seen flooding like this," said Albany Park resident Babu Daniel, who has lived in the neighborhood for 10 years, as he walked through his neighborhood in water up to his knees.
Addison and Des Plaines declared emergencies, along with Glendale Heights, Bensenville, Warrenville and Wood Dale. Cook County Board President Todd Stroger declared an emergency across the entire county.Roads in and around a section of Warrenville were closed this afternoon as the West Branch of the DuPage River rose and completely covered a section of Warrenville Road. Police and ESDA personnel rerouted traffic and kept curious onlookers away from the moving water which swelled over the river banks some time today. The water completely covered five lanes of
Jim LoBianco, managing deputy commissioner with the Chicago Department of Human Resources, said 38 people spent Saturday night at a make-shift shelter in the historic Chicago Municipal Tuberculosis Sanitarium building in the North Park Village, less than 10 blocks away from the worst flooding.
The 38 people, all from the Albany Park neighborhood on the city's northwest side, included 11 senior citizens and one child. The relief center was prepared to hold at least 170 people, LoBianco said. Also spending the night were three dogs and one cat, and a city animal control and care van was parked not far from a Salvation Army van serving hot meals.
"The city has made a concerted effort to allow people to relocate with their pets," LoBianco said.
Since early Saturday morning, the Chicago Departments of Streets and Sanitation's Bureau of Forestry and Electricity has responded to 137 reports of damaged trees, 52 malfunctioning traffic signals, 7 damaged light poles 25 downed wires and 127 city blocks where street lights were all out, according to a news release.
Starting around 10 p.m. Saturday, fire department officials went door to door in the neighborhood and let residents know about the emergency shelter. People were taken to the center in vans, and city human services department employees helped take people with special dietary and medical needs to the grocery store and pharmacy, LoBianco said.
This morning, muddy water ran through the neighborhood. Albany Park is a mix of brick single-family houses and townhouses, and home to many immigrants, young families, and seniors, the latter of whom said they'd never seen the Chicago River flood so much.
Neighbors took photos, started running sump pumps and made sandbags of their own. At a park, the water covered a tennis court and was about a half-foot from the top of a tennis net, and a few children splashed in the water by the net, laughing.
City water department workers drove bulldozers up and down the streets, urging people to stay out of the water, and dropping sandbags onto already-flooded sidewalks. A few blocks away, several city dump trucks full of sand waited, but it wasn't in bags yet.
Shylo Bisnett, 29, who lives on North Avers Avenue near the flooded intersection with West Carmen Avenue in Albany Park, helped clear drains clogged with leaves.
Bisnett said the block of West Carmen that ends at the river has been flooded since about 3 p.m. Saturday, and while the city began towing cars blocking drains, officials didn't start sandbagging until Sunday morning, she said. She said her neighbors, many with flooded basements, have been sandbagging all night, and she wished the city had started sooner.
"They've been up all night, emptying their basements," Bisnett said of her neighbors. "(The city) should have done this by 5 p.m. yesterday (Saturday)."
A block away, Babu Daniel, 62, made his way through knee-high water in the 5100 block of North Avers Avenue, a plastic bag partially over his head to keep him dry - a losing battle - and his feet barefoot to avoid ruining his shoes.
His family stayed put as waters rose on Saturday, but by 10 a.m. today, they decided it was time to leave. He had belongings wrapped in trash bags, and five family members followed him. Daniel said the family's cars were under too much water to use; they were walking up the street to meet another family member who could drive them to his home in Skokie.
"I have never seen flooding like this," Daniel said, who has lived in the neighborhood for 10 years.
Over on North Springfield Avenue, Amanda Anderson, 28, was one of the few families in the flooded zone that decided to stay put, even though water came up to her doorstep, and her home's garden apartment had more than five feet of dark water in it, the newly-refinished bathroom presumed to be ruined. At 10:30 a.m. today, city officials came by with sandbags for her front porch, several of the bags disappearing into the water as they dropped them.
"They should have been here sooner," she said. "When the river started hitting Foster (Avenue), they should have been on it," she said.
Anderson had already sent her two-and-a-half-year son, Ethan, to stay with her mother about two blocks away, but decided to stay in the home with husband Casey, 27, because Amanda Anderson's 86-year-old grandmother was on the second floor. Amanda Anderson said her grandmother is largely bed-ridden and the family decided it'd be too risky to move her.
"I'm not going to leave my grandma," Anderson said. She said she wasn't worried about staying in the home, because she keeps it well-stocked with a variety of food.
"I have a toddler, and he's picky," she said. "I could feed the building."
In Riverside, firefighters knocked on the door of Gail Emond's condominium at 5 a.m. today and told her and her husband, Bart Dziekonski, to evacuate. By this afternoon the couple, their two cats and three neighbors were in motel rooms in Lyons, watching the Bears game.
The Des Plaines River had flooded into the basement windows of their condo in Riverside and the basement was submerged in water, Emond said this afternoon.
"Can I have a beer?" she joked. "We're just trying to stay calm. It's hard but what can you do? I'm sure other people have it worse."
Emond's street, West Avenue, and First Avenue in Riverside were among several streets closed in that town after the Des Plaines flooded the area. Officials were still awaiting the river's crest this afternoon.
Firefighters used boats to evacuate residents in an 11-building apartment complex and two subdivisions along Salt Creek on the east side of Addison this morning, according to village spokesman Don Weiss.
The voluntary evacuations began at about 5 a.m. An emergency shelter was set up at the recreation center at Centennial Park near the corner of Lake Street and Rohlwing Road, Weiss said.
The main area of flooding was along Villa Avenue, which officials closed today because of high water from Lake Street to Lorraine Avenue.
The water level on Salt Creek was nearly four feet above flood stage at 11 a.m., Weiss said. That's a little more than a foot below where the creek crested during significant flooding in 1987, Weiss said.
The evacuations were recommended by village officials for residents of The Villa Brook Apartments in the 100 block of South Villa Avenue, and also the nearby Normandy Manor and Home Addition subdivisions.
Weiss could not estimate how many people live in the affected areas. He said the evacuations were voluntary, but many people seemed to be complying, seeking shelter with friends and relatives outside the flood zone.
There were also voluntary evacuations in Glenview in a residential area near the west fork of the north branch of the Chicago River, officials said.
"We talked to residents and strongly encouraged them to evacuate," said Janet Bishop, communications director with the Village. She said approximately 30 people stayed in a temporary park district shelter on Saturday night. Some were planning to stay again tonight.
Skokie began emergency operations on Saturday after receiving approximately seven inches of rain. Parts of Skokie Boulevard remained closed today and other streets had some flooding.
The Edens Expressway was closed Saturday at Pratt and vehicles could not enter the Edens Expressway at Dempster Street going southbound.
An alert to Wilmette residents said that all areas of the village are experiencing flooding. A flood warning remained in effect today. A section of Sheridan Road in Wilmette was closed Saturday and some side streets remained flooded today.
Jeff Long, Emily S. Achenbaum, Vikki Ortiz, Ted Gregory and Brian Cox
Aid request: Chicago authorities said Sunday morning they will ask the governor's office to issue a disaster declaration for the city because of flooding caused by record rainfall.
The National Weather Service has issued a flash flood warning until 4:30 Sunday afternoon for large portions of northern Illinois, plus several counties of northwestern Indiana. The warning covers all or parts of the following Illinois counties: Ford, Iroquois, Boone, DeKalb, LaSalle, Lee, Ogle, Winnebago, Cook, DuPage, Grundy, Kane, Kankakee, Kendall, Lake, McHenry, and Will, plus the Indiana Counties of Jasper, Newton, Lake and Porter.
-- The Bishop Ford Freeway has been closed from 130th Street to the city limits because of flooding.
-- River Road in Rosemont is closed from I-190 and points north. Vehicles are able to exit the parking lot of the River Road CTA Blue Line stop. River Road between 190 and Higgins Road had significant flooding Saturdayday, but it appears to be worse now.
-- In Naperville, 95th Street west of 248th Street was flooded with several inches of water Sunday morning. Signs are posted to advise residents not to maneuver through the area. Motorists are advised to avoid that area and use alternate routes to reach their destination.
IDOT's list of road closings
And more on chicagotribune.com's traffic report (right side of page).
Airports: Flight operations at O'Hare and Midway were going normally Sunday, a city aviation official said.
-- At the Hyatt Regency O'Hare in Rosemont, extensive flooding forced the closing of hotel garages. Vehicles inside the multi-level garage were safe, but the ground level, from which cars were ordered moved Saturday, is under more than 2 feet of water. Guests whose cars were stuck inside the garage were being offered an extra night's stay free.
From Phil Vettel
CTA service: Blue Line trains to O'Hare resumed Sunday after being suspended for much of Saturday, but service is not normal, agency chief Ron Huberman said. Blue Line trains still are running from Rosemont to the airport but at reduced levels. A vault fire caused by flooding at the airport caused "significant damage" to cables that control signals and switches for trains going into O'Hare, he said. It could take more than a month to complete repairs and testing, Huberman said. Train service from Rosemont to downtown Chicago is running normally, he said.
The big flush: The Water Reclamation District released 62 billion gallons of water into Lake Michigan Saturday, district President Terry O'Brien said at a news conference Sunday. The district's seven wastewater treatment facilities were filled to capacity Saturday after taking in 90 billion gallons of water, he said. On Sunday the Chicago River was 2 feet below where it was the day before, he said.
The Greater Chicago Red Cross has opened four shelters for people displaced by flooding in the city and suburbs. The shelters are located at:
-- North Park College at 5801 N. Pulaski. The shelter was opened early Sunday to care for people who were evacuated from parts of the Albany Park neighborhood when the Chicago River crested.
-- The Des Plaines Park District at 515 E. Thacker in Des Plaines.
-- St. Stevens Lutheran Church at 14700 S. Kildare in Midlothian in the south suburbs.
-- Mt. Carmel School, 1101 N. 23rd Avenue in Melrose Park.
Closings: Brookfield Zoo will be closed Sunday because of flooding on nearby roads, a spokeswoman said. She said all animals have been moved safely indoors.
Events canceled: (Know of a cancellation? Send a notice to email@example.com)
-- The fourth annual Lakeview East Festival of the Arts in the city's Lake View neighborhood canceled its second day of events Sunday due to the weather.
-- Celtic Fest Chicago at Grant Park has been canceled due to rain.
Saturday's rainfall, as measured at O'Hare International Airport, was at least 6.63 inches, breaking the city calendar-day record of 6.49 on Aug. 14, 1987. Records have been kept since 1871. (Read full coverage of Saturday's deluge).
Expect widespread rain Sunday morning, then scattered light showers in the afternoon. There could be an additional 2 to 3 inches of rain in some areas, the National Weather Service predicted. High temperatures will be in the 60s. There is a 30 percent chance of light showers Sunday night, with low temperatures in the 50s. The region should begin to dry out Monday. Cloudy skies are forecast but no new rainfall.
Towed vehicles: The city's Department of Streets and Sanitation said dozens of vehicles have been towed in flooded areas. Relocated vehicles that were south of the Chicago River are being taken to 4958 N. Springfield, the department said in a news release. Vehicles that were relocated from north of the river are being taken to the Northeastern Illinois University Parking Lot, Lot "L."