Thursday, April 18, 2013

Heavy Rains, A Swollen Chicago River ---- Again

(Our personal 2008 Albany Park flood story, complete with pictures, starts at Albany Park Flood- Record-breaking Chicago rains. )

Here we go again.  

Well, not yet.

And maybe not at all....

No water in the basement yet, not one drop (and hopefully there won't be), but the North Branch of the Chicago River has exceeded flood stage.  The houses south of the river are inundated and the city was placing sandbags down there and dropping big concrete pylons.  A number of cars are stuck in the water over there.. I guess the owners didn't get them out in time.. or perhaps the owners were at work and didn't realize that the street would flood as much as it did.

We're north of the river; we're several feet higher than the homes south of the river, and our street is dry.

As I write, at 11:30 a.m. Thursday, the worst of the rain appears to be over and has moved to the east.  There are some lines of thunderstorms southwest that may or may not hit the Chicago area, but they don't seem to be extreme.

As our basement was never turned back into a living area, we don't have as much to lose this time should we get any flooding down there.  But, just to be safe, I've triaged and prioritized the stuff in the basement and I have about 20 items that I'm bringing upstairs one or two at a time.

The river itself is not expected to crest until later tonight or tomorrow afternoon, so we are still wary.  However, a lot of work has been done on the sewer/drainage system in this area, so our basements may be spared.  I won't feel comfortable until tomorrow morning.    

What's the flood stage for the Chicago River at Albany Park? 

Weather Underground says that flooding at Albany Park starts at 7.0 feet.  The river was 8.2 feet this morning.  It was expected to reach 8.4 feet this afternoon.  It did not say whether or not that would be a crest.  So we have hours to go before we know how this will all work out.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Hurricane Irene Floods: Thoughts and Wishes

On September 13, 2008, torrential record-breaking rains caused the mild-mannered North Branch of the Chicago River to overflow its banks, inundating nearby homes and basements. This has been the story of one family's experience and our attempts to put our lives back in order.
Our personal Albany Park flood story, complete with pictures, starts at Albany Park Flood- Record-breaking Chicago rains.

A postscript

Hurricane Irene, no longer either a hurricane or a tropical storm, has blown away to Canada. But it is now Monday morning, apparently a bright, sunny beautiful Monday on the East Coast, and people affected by this storm are waking (if indeed they ever slept) to a new world and a new reality.

I've been watching the Twitter feed for Vermont and looking at pictures and videos of the destruction in Vermont and upstate New York. New Jersey, Virginia, and North Carolina are still reeling, but the big cities apparently escaped.

But, on the backdrop of Irene and all of the flooding it is bringing to people, it is now a good time to end this blog.. . At least for now.

Three Years ago

It has been three years since the flooding of the Chicago River that I chronicled here. We have never completed the repairs to our downstairs living area, so it is now just an official basement. Maybe one day. If we ever have any extra money.

Even though we have had a few serious "rain events", the Chicago River hasn't come close to the level of September 2008, and we haven't had a drop in our basement...thankfully.

A River Tragedy

However, we did have a tragedy in our neighborhood last summer. The river was high; over its banks in the park to the west of us, and some kids were playing near the river. Apparently a ball went over the fence and into the river, and a child, 7 years old I think, climbed over the fence and fell into the swollen river. They could not find him. The kid apparently had been with an older sibling and some other neighborhood kids and didn't heed the advice of the others to stay away from the river.

We had emergency vehicles and personnel in this area for a week. We saw people dragging the river here at the end of the block, and we saw some kind of dredging vehicle in the big Chicago River Channel about two miles from here.

Finally, about two miles down river where we had seen the dredging boat on the other side of the falls, the child's body was found.. about a week after he disappeared into the churning waters. There was a makeshift lantern memorial for the boy near where he had climbed over that fence. It was sad; truly tragic. We can never forget the power of rushing water.

Back to now and what it is like to experience a flood:

I don't know if this is true for others, but this was true for us and others around here: Even with insurance, even with help from FEMA, there was just not enough money to fix and replace everything. And if a flood hits in the middle of a bad economic time, or just a personally bad economic time, people are not going to be able to get everything back to Square 1: It just won't happen.

Our home is solid; we never had to leave our home and, though we lost much, we did have an intact kitchen, roof, and walls. Our damage was minor compared to that experienced by many people.

We did have one house here that was knocked down, and another with a beautiful patio that overlooked the river that had major damage and has remained empty. I've heard the family had no choice but to just let it get foreclosed as the value of the home dropped well below the mortgage. I don't know where the family is now living.

Watching other floods: I know what those people will go through.

As I watch the pictures of Vermont and upstate New York, my heart just jumps. I feel for those people and I know what they are going to go through in the days and weeks ahead. I know the feeling of walking back into your home (or a part of your home) after the water is gone and realizing the total devastation. I know what it is like to try to salvage whatever can be salvaged, and I know what it is like to fill bags and bags with stuff that once had value and meaning that is now just plain garbage.

Everybody will be gone, the attention of the nation and the world will have moved on, the news crews will have packed up, but the residents and business owners will still be there, still dealing with mess and heartbreak, and trying to figure out what the future holds for them.

Yes, there are idiots.

I can't end without a word of contempt towards the idiots who contaminate blogs and comments sections of online venues with plain stupidity.

Hurricane Irene, some of them write, was "overhyped" as part of a main stream media and government plot to make us more willing to give up our freedoms for government dependence. Obviously these people have not had the misfortune of living through a natural disaster. And, equally obviously, they are just so far off base that I don't think I can even "discuss" this issue with them.

Also: "What's the big deal? It wasn't even a hurricane by the time it got to upstate New York!" Well, the flood that got us was not a hurricane either.. doesn't matter. A serious flood doesn't have to have a name to do serious damage to life, liberty, and property.

After the rains and the flooding stop, after the water goes back down, you find yourself in a state of shock as you look around, surveying the damage, wondering what can be salvaged, stunned at the amount of clean up work that awaits you, really concerned about the money involved.

Yet the idiots will say that it is all a media and government "plot" or just overhype for a bad storm.

I would wish ill on all of those morons, but it wouldn't be nice, so I'll just move on.

About the government and "control" over our lives: We did have help from FEMA, not a lot, but I'll be eternally grateful for that help. I can't believe a serious candidate for the Presidency chose this time to make a pronouncement that FEMA should be disbanded and the states should take care of things. Is this or is this country not called the "United States of America"?

That's the end of any political ranting, as this is not a political blog.

A Flood is Never a "Minor" Event

As I said, this particular Chicago River flood was nothing, I don't think it even made it to the national news. But unless you've lived through and had damage from even a "minor" event, you have no idea how devastatin­g and difficult it can be.

Of course, my thoughts and prayers are with those who died and their families, but also with all of those who are going to be trying to recover from this mere "tropical storm".

I wish you and yours, all of today's flood victims, and all of the flood victims of the next big flood as well, the very best. Life is not quite ever the same, but it does return to a "new normal". It's just really, really tough.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

March floods in Chicago.. High anxiety

(Our personal Albany Park flood story, complete with pictures, starts at Albany Park Flood- Record-breaking Chicago rains. )

Rain, rain go away!

It's four o'clock in the morning and it has been raining all night long.

We haven't had that much rain tonight, but we had 2-3 inches over the weekend, and that did serve to swell the Chicago River. It wasn't anywhere close to the flooding of September, but the river was out of its banks and the park a block west of our home was flooded. There are "flood advisories" and "flash flood warnings" all over the Midwest in anticipation of new rains tonight. I just noticed that a "wind advisory" has been added as well.

I can't sleep when it rains. I logon to the computer and watch the radar, checking out the basement and the street every half an hour or so. When the radar shows that the majority of the rain has passed and we're again in the green on the Weather Underground radar, I can finally rest.

That's just about where we are right now. The radar shows that those of us who are north of the city are "in the green" for now, while those south and southwest are still experiencing quite a bit of rain. Some of those areas had serious flooding over the weekend and some of the streams and rivers from the south and southwestern areas of the metro area were already at "moderate" flooding.

A check of our still-unfinished basement confirms that it is bone dry. I look out our front windows to the river and I see another sleepless soul walking over the bridge with an umbrella. This is a good thing... not that that person is also up at 4 in the morning looking at the river... but that he or she can walk that river path up to the bridge. The path, the picture at the top of my blog, was underwater last September. We've only received a half an inch of rain around here. Now we just have to wait until tomorrow; there's supposed to be more rain, and we'll see how much rain comes down from the river branches and the Skokie lagoons up north. We're not out of the woods yet, but I think I can sleep. For all of two or three hours.

Will I ever sleep through a rain again? That's a good question.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

December Chicago Flooding - Anxiety Time

(Our personal Albany Park flood story, complete with pictures, starts at Albany Park Flood- Record-breaking Chicago rains. )

I'd been planning to add a post summarizing the experience of the Albany Park Flood and creating some kind of closure for this blog, as the effects of the September 2008 Albany Park Flood of the Chicago River are fading into the past. But not so fast!

On Friday we heard that we were due for some intense storms and that the temperature was going to spiral up into the 50's or 60's, melting the mounds of snow that had made travel so difficult over the past few weeks. The weather people and the news outlets were making it clear that, due to the rains and the high temperatures, the Chicago area could be in for serious mid-winter flooding. Not what we wanted to hear after we had just spent a couple of weeks moving a lot of stuff back down into the basement so that we could have a livable living room.

Friday afternoon the city trucks started sandbagging the block south of the river, the 5000 block of Monticello that flooded so badly in September. Listening to those dump truck and front loaders was eerie. The Chicago River was already fairly robust Friday evening, but nowhere near flood stage.

Saturday Chicago River Flood Watch

As the rains started, I pulled up Weather Underground on my computer and kept watch on the radar. I read everything I could find about the weather and the flooding, and I could not sleep. I awoke at 2 a.m. Saturday morning and couldn't fall back asleep until the first line of storms were gone, about 7 in the morning. But then I awoke again a couple of hours later when the next storms went through.

I kept looking down into our (still dry) basement every half hour. I actually felt very anxious, almost terrified.

The Chicago River was up over its banks yesterday morning, though from my living room, I could still see people walking along the path by the river. Back in September that path, pictured at the intro to this blog, was completely submerged. I did see people from the Water Department and Streets and San all over the area yesterday.

Flooding in Riverside and DesPlaines

There was no attention to Albany Park from the media, but there was much talk about flooding of the DesPlaines River in Riverside and DesPlaines. I read of people who had just moved back into their homes, just moved stuff back into their basements, who were again facing flooding. To be honest, the DesPlaines River has flooded in Riverside and DesPlaines ever since I can remember. I grew up in the western suburbs, and we all knew that that beautiful area of Riverside along the river was prone to flooding. I did feel for those people... to go through all that we all went through in September and then have it all happen again is very hard.

Saturday Night: No Albany Park Flood... yet

I continued my agonizing watch through Saturday, and I felt quite relieved when the radar showed that most of the rains had moved on to Michigan and places east. The weather and news people made it clear, however, that we weren't out of the woods yet. There was plenty of extra water up farther north, and these rivers might not crest until Sunday, Monday or even later.

I went out to do some errands about 7 p.m. Saturday evening, and I drove through the neighborhood. Though the Chicago River had blown its banks, it was nowhere near as high as it had been in September. The parks were waterlogged, but there was no flooding on any of the roads. Our basement remained dry, and I hope that is true of all of our neighbors. I did manage to fall asleep Saturday night.

But those reports of rivers still to crest weren't very comforting.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Natuzzi Leather Sofa Meets Its Maker

Ever want to see the innards of a sofa ---- A Natuzzi Leather Sofa in particular?

(As usual, you can click on the pictures for the gory details.)

Nope... it's not pretty.

(Our personal Albany Park flood story, complete with pictures, starts at Albany Park Flood- Record-breaking Chicago rains. )

Paul's Natuzzi leather sofa was indeed very comfortable and very attractive. It was comfortable for sleeping as well, as I fell asleep on it many times while he stayed awake watching something on T.V. Some nights when I just couldn't sleep and I was up tossing and turning, I'd take my pillow and a blanket and I'd manage to fall asleep on that sofa.

The sofa wasn't in great shape as Paul's cat, the cat that disappeared this year, had occasionally used the sofa as a scratching post. But it still looked good and it was comfortable. He'd had it for about ten years, several years before I met him, and he really loved that sofa.

The sofa was completely underwater during the Albany Park flood, and afterwards it was completely waterlogged. I could barely push the thing a few inches so that I could cut the rug out from under it. It wasn't going to be moved up the stairs, so the obvious solution was to break it up and haul it up in pieces.

Two of Paul's coworkers volunteered to come over a couple of weeks after the flood and do the deed. I found the axe and a hammer or two and they set to work.

The Death of the Natuzzi leather sofa in pictures

Boy, it would be great to start with a picture of the leather sofa in its glory, but I couldn't find one. Maybe some other time.

Here is the sofa underwater, to the right with the blue pillow on it:

Here it is, full of mold, with futon leavings drying on it:

In the process of being taken apart:

All that is left.. what couldn't be carried out was swept up into contractor bags:

Adios, Natuzzi leather sofa... Another victim of the Albany Park flood bites the dust.

(Next part of the Albany Park Flood Story: December Chicago Flooding: High anxiety time )

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Albany Park Flood Recovery and Barack Obama

(Our personal Albany Park flood story, complete with pictures, starts at Albany Park Flood- Record-breaking Chicago rains. )

What a gorgeous fall day in Chicago! The city looked great last night for all of the Barack Obama election festivities, and it is exciting to anticipate a "Midwest White House" and a lot of attention to our city over the coming years.

I was touched by the emotions of middle-aged and older black people as they reacted to Barack Obama's election. I grew up in the 50's and the 60's. All of us, white, black, and everybody in between, have come a long way in terms of tolerance and acceptance. Older black people grew up in a time when they had to struggle to go to school, struggle to get voting rights, struggle to eat in certain restaurants, struggle to live. I don't know that anybody who grew up back then, those of us in our 50's or 60's or older, could ever have imagined that a black man could be elected President. It doesn't really matter of what political persuasion you are; Obama's election is an amazing statement about this country. I wish him (and all of us) the best.

But this isn't a political blog. So I'll continue with our attempts to get our lives back in order after the Albany Park flood of the Chicago River.

We have sewer/drain insurance. We still do not have the money from the insurance claim. Well, we almost do, but our bank has a hold on the check. The frustration of trying to deal with this insurance check has been just overwhelming. We were told that banks often put 10-day holds on such checks because they often "come back". Why would an insurance check written by a corporation come back? I also wonder if banks are holding onto things longer (not making the funds "available") due to the whole credit fiasco.

I think I will call the insurance commission today and at least lodge a complaint. And the FEMA people have left Northeastern. I guess if we still have questions, we have to use the FEMA hotline.

It's overwhelming. I think I said that already.

(Next part of the Albany Park Flood Story: Natuzzi Leather Sofa Meets its Maker )