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By Bob Uphues
Scores of Riverside and Brookfield residents had to be evacuated from their homes last week as heavy rains on April 17 and 18 washed out sections of both villages near the Des Plaines River and Salt Creek.
According to the National Weather Service nearly five inches of rain fell on the area near Riverside, Brookfield and North Riverside within a 24-hour period, while other parts of the Chicago area — such as Oak Brook —received as much as 6.5 inches.
In LaGrange Park a volunteer observer for the National Weather Service reported rainfall of 4.7 inches of rain during the storm.
The Des Plaines River, meanwhile, crested at a record height — 11.42 feet at about midnight on April 19. While the gauge measuring the height of the river has changed and reads at a higher level now than in the past, the high-water mark is still believed to be a new record. The old record was 9.9 feet, set during a memorable flood event in August 1987.
Either way, areas known as flood-prone in all three villages were inundated. And residents who have experienced past floods, including significant events in both 2008 and 2010, said this one was different.
"It came up a lot faster," said David Bolt, a 34-year resident of Groveland Avenue in Riverside, which was closed for three days due to standing water. "The sump pump couldn't keep up."
On April 19, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn visited Riverside and held a press conference to declare almost 40 counties in the state disaster areas and pleaded with the federal government to give financial relief to flooded-out residents and municipalities. By Sunday, Quinn had declared 44 Illinois counties disaster areas.
"This is a state of emergency," said Quinn. "I don't think I've ever seen anything like this flood, covering this many counties."
In the 3500 block of Forest Avenue in Brookfield, Phillip Kasik had never seen anything like it either. A veteran of the 2008 and 2010 flooding, Kasik woke up at 5 a.m. on April 18 to the voices of panicking neighbors.
"I heard all the scrambling outside, people yelling," said Kasik. "I moved my cars to the [Washington Avenue] bridge. There was already water in the front yard."
But Kasik, a newlywed who married his wife, Linda, in January, thought he had some time. In 2008, it took about four hours before the water flooded his basement, so he had time to get items out.
In just two hours, the water was gushing up his front steps and down into his basement from two sides. The basement door in the back held out until about 7:45 a.m. Then the water pressure forced it open and the water surged in, filling the basement from floor to ceiling. By early afternoon, when there was about a foot of water on the first floor, Kasik, his wife and their two dogs were evacuated by firefighters.
They struggled, carrying a few personal items and their dogs, through frigid, chest-deep water through their backyard and finally to higher ground on Lincoln Avenue. In the mad scramble earlier that day, one of the two dogs, a 12-year-old Yorkie named Max, tumbled down a flight of stairs and was paralyzed. Kasik had Max put to sleep on Sunday.
"We lost everything," said Kasik, who rented the duplex and said his insurance didn't cover flood damage. "All our wedding gifts were in the basement, I had a home office in the basement. We lost our dog."
The garage, also filled to the brim with personal items, flooded, ruining everything.
"This is it," said Kasik. "We're saying goodbye to Brookfield. We'll come back with our kids when we visit the zoo."
Other families in the 3500 and 3600 blocks Forest Avenue were evacuated Thursday, including about a dozen who were taken from the area Thursday night via boats by the Lyons and Pleasantview fire departments.
In Riverside, according to Village Manager Peter Scalera, 200 residences were evacuated in the area that includes West, Groveland and Lincoln avenues near the Des Plaines River. In all, 67 buildings, many of them multifamily structures, were evacuated on April 18, said Scalera.
Flooded roads made travel throughout the area difficult on April 18 and 19, and some streets, including First Avenue — which didn't re-open to traffic until Monday morning — remained closed throughout the weekend.
Meanwhile, residents in all three villages pitched in to help their flooded neighbors. Boy Scouts and neighbors who hadn't been flooded sought out those in need and helped fill sandbags to keep back the creeping flood water.
After schools closed early on April 18, many students headed down to the Riverside Township Hall to fill sandbags that were taken to areas experiencing flooding. And in North Riverside, on 19th Avenue where Addison Creek had flooded, volunteers helped fill sandbags to stem the flooding.
"It was a horrible couple of days in the village of Brookfield," said Village President Michael Garvey. "But it also brought out the goodness in people. It was a very difficult couple of days, but Brookfield really shined."