While towns to its north and south suffered the direct torrents of floodwaters spilling over the Des Plaines River’s banks, Forest Park’s burden this week was perpetually gridlocked traffic as frustrated drivers from 47th Street to Belmont searched in vain for a way to cross the swollen river.
By the Review’s presstime midday Tuesday, major east-west arteries were reopening, and Village Administrator Mike Sturino was hopeful that life, and traffic, would be close to normal by Wednesday.
Already on Tuesday, both Roosevelt Road and Madison Street had reopened to traffic with one lane moving in each direction.
At the peak of the flooding, he said, Roosevelt Road was under 2 1/2 feet of water at the crown of the road. The overflowing river channeled through adjacent cemeteries and, for a time, created “a stream across Roosevelt Road,” Sturino said. Currents carried an assemblage of debris downriver that clogged against the Roosevelt Road overpass, he said. Forest Park decided it did not have the proper equipment to clear the blockage but on Tuesday crews from the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District were there tackling that job.
“I saw a basketball, logs, garbage and organic material,” Sturino said.
But Forest Park officials did provide help to neighboring River Forest with fire department staff working to sandbag areas to the north. “We’re good neighbors. They’re good neighbors to us,” said Sturino.
While some basements and yards flooded in Forest Park, the broad cemeteries seemed to absorb the brunt of the floodwaters.
The village administrator described weekend and early week traffic as “desperate-very bad.”
“For some time, the only open route across the river from 47th to Belmont was the Eisenhower. So we had a lot of interest (from drivers). They were cutting through alleys and going the wrong way on our streets. It was gridlock.”
At one point Monday, Desplaines Avenue traffic was backed up six blocks both north and south of the Ike as frustrated drivers sought access to the highway. Witnesses described “hundreds of cars” slowly circling side streets trying to find a route out of town.
Sturino said village officials visited businesses on Roosevelt Road and Industrial Drive to help assess traffic problems and keep their businesses in operation.
He lauded local residents for their “good humor and patience” during the ordeal.
Staff reporter Bill Dwyer contributed to this story.