Believe it or not, the amount of rain the area received last week was about the same as a huge storm that came through in 2011. In July of that year, between 4 and 7 inches of rain (accompanied by howling winds and devastating lightning) fell in just a few hours.
It flooded basements in Riverside and Brookfield and washed out sections of Riverside Lawn. But in all, the flooding was minor compared to last week, where Salt Creek and the Des Plaines River inundated entire neighborhoods in all three villages, blocked roads for days and severely damaged homes.
The difference between the 2011 storm on the 2013 storm was that, this year, river levels were already elevated when the storm hit. Instead of beginning anywhere from 4 to 5 feet below flood stage when the rains came, the Des Plaines, for example, was less than 2 feet from flood stage because of earlier rains.
The 2008 flood was a more gradual event. There was rain aplenty, but it fell over a three-day period. While many of the same areas hit last week were flooded badly back in 2008, there was more time to deal with the rising water.
To tell you the truth, we don’t know what the solution to these kinds of events is. The storm sewer systems in each town (segments of which are old combined sewers) get absolutely filled to capacity during these rains.
The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District’s Deep Tunnel — an enormous complex of giant sewer structures, which can hold 2.3 billion gallons of water — also filled to capacity. The MWRD even opened locks to Lake Michigan to usher storm runoff into the lake.
Apart from continuing to urge the completion of the Deep Tunnel project — still reportedly years away — the only thing we can think of is for all of us, as residents, municipalities, counties, states and as a nation to look at why these events are happening so often.
This area has experienced at least four incredible rain events since 2008. There were two of these flash downpours within a month of each other in 2010. In between, there has been a near record blizzard, blistering heat and drought.
Global climate change is real, folks. And it’s high time we took it seriously.