By Bob Uphues
The record books will show that on Oct. 14, the rainfall total at O'Hare Airport was a one-day record at 4.19 inches. And over at Midway, 5.11 inches fell — not a record, but still a lot. The two-day total for Midway ended up at 5.41 inches.
However, local totals varied during the two-day rain event on Oct. 14-15, which resulted in sporadic flooding to streets, parks and basements throughout Brookfield, Riverside and North Riverside.
And based on official rain totals reported by the National Weather Service in Burr Ridge and by one local resident who has a weather station at his residence, it appears areas in the west and southwest suburbs received heavier rainfall than totals reported at either airport.
The National Weather Service reported that the two-day rainfall in Burr Ridge was 9.3 inches, while Allen Goodcase's weather station at his home on the south end of Brookfield registered 9.8 inches of rain between 3 a.m. on Oct. 14 and 6:45 a.m. on Oct. 15.
"It's important to note that, due to the nature of storm cells, this was the measurement here near Ehlert Park," said Goodcase, who operates a technology company. "Other areas around town, say a mile or even blocks north, could have different readings. … The concentration of cells occurred in a relatively narrow band."
The amount of rain overwhelmed local sewer systems, causing brief flooding on residential streets. First Avenue between Forest and Ogden avenues was shut down on two separate occasions due to flooding at the railroad overpass, from about 1 to 3 p.m. on Oct. 14 and again from about 8:45 p.m. on Oct. 14 until about 7:30 a.m. on Oct. 15.
A section of the 100 block of Fairbank Road in Riverside also had standing water for hours on Sunday, as water gushed from a manhole just south of the street at the low point of that street.
According to the National Weather Service, the Des Plaines River swelled from about 2.5 feet at 9 a.m. on Oct. 14 until it crested at 8.58 feet about 24 hours later.
The river level stayed below the major flood-stage level in Riverside, which is 9 feet, but the Oct. 15 crest was the eighth-highest ever recorded at Riverside, according to National Weather Service records.
For the second time this year, water from the Des Plaines inundated Swan Pond Park. The first inundation was in late July, which delayed the planting of 10,000 plants that were intended to be the first phase of a multi-year effort to create a sustainable wetlands area in the low area of Swan Pond Park.
Public works employees and volunteers planted the plants in mid-August and officials hoped flood waters would stay away as the small plants established themselves. It's unclear whether last weekend's flood, which ensures the plants will be submerged for several more days, will kill the plants.
"The longer the plants are underwater, the higher the likelihood of mortality from suffocation," Riverside Public Works Director Edward Bailey wrote in an email sent to village officials on Monday. "It seems the river level will be down by midweek to a point where Swan Pond can drain, so hopefully the plantings can hang in there for these few days. Only time will tell."
The Des Plaines River crept into rear yards along Maplewood Road and West Avenue but did not reach residences. The river also flooded large sections of Indian Gardens and around the Scout Cabin. A Riverside Woman's Charity fundraiser, scheduled for Oct. 14 at the Scout Cabin, was washed out, as was a gala fundraiser at the Riverside Arts Center. The gala has been rescheduled for Oct. 21.
In Brookfield, Salt Creek also rose rapidly throughout Saturday and by Sunday morning, the creek crested just an inch or two below the underside of the Washington Avenue bridge.
However, the new pump station succeeded in keeping the storm sewer from overflowing into the 3500 block of Forest Avenue, although the owners of at least two homes on that block could be seen pumping water from their basements on Sunday morning.
While streets in various spots in Brookfield experienced temporary flooding, Salt Creek overflowed its banks in the vicinity of Southview and Arden avenues in the South Hollywood section, shutting down that area.
The flooding also closed off the Cech Terrace subdivision of Lyons, at Southview Avenue and Circle Drive, to vehicular traffic. The Lyons Fire Department was able to pump water from the area for a time, courtesy of a 1,250-per-gallon pump, loaned by the Cook County Department of Homeland Security, but once the creek overflowed early Sunday morning, pumping became fruitless.
"Now we just have to let it settle," Brookfield Fire Chief Patrick Lenzi said that morning.
North Riverside also experienced sporadic pooling of water in streets due to surcharging sewers, and there were scattered reports of basement flooding.
"I thought we performed OK," said Public Works Director Tim Kutt. "We were charged, but flowing. There was the occasional street with water on it, but 10 minutes later they were clear. It was on and off, more during the afternoon and evening [of Oct. 14]."
And while many people have moved from Riverside Lawn, in the unincorporated section of Riverside Township south of the Des Plaines River, those who remained were left to deal with the flooding that's become common in the past decade during large rain events.
Flooding extended into the 3800 blocks of both Stanley and Gladstone avenues, with many homes surrounded by water.