A month – to the day – after nature unleashed what Fire Chief Steve Glinke called a “wrath of God” storm, Forest Park was pummeled by another fierce rain that dumped almost 8 inches by early Saturday morning. In a déjà vu of heartbreak, local alleys and parkways once again filled with chunks of dry wall, rolls of filthy carpeting, couches mattresses, dressers, clothing, and toys and the soggy contents of residential basements.
The overnight rains were so heavy that the Eisenhower Expressway was temporarily shut and the Blue Line tracks in Forest Park, and neighboring communities, were flooded and closed most of Saturday.
By Sunday, the village used reverse 911 code-red calling technology to tell residents there would be extra trash pickups for flood-damaged household goods.
In the underground parking garage at 7251 Randolph on Saturday morning, dozens of cars were submerged up to the hoods in gasoline-smelling oily water. As of Monday, the water had subsided, but the 48-unit building was still without power. Monica and Gerardo Menchaca met with an insurance adjuster to fill out paperwork for their totaled 2003 black Jeep 4×4.
“The other storm, it was during the day and we were able to pull the cars out when the garage started flooding,” Monica Menchaca said referring to the June 23 rain.
But this storm was different. The building’s pumping system stopped when the power failed at about 1:15 a.m. Water flowed into the building’s sub-basement control room, which houses the boilers, electrical panels and hot-water heaters.
Gerardo Menchaca ventured downstairs in the dark early Saturday morning and found the basement laundry room filled with 4 feet of water and “the washers and dryers floating around.” The Dumpster had been overturned by rising water. Gerardo Menchaca also found a watery graveyard of automobiles.
“We’re almost afraid to get a new car,” said Monica Menchaca. The couple and their two children, ages 2 and 3, are living in Chicago temporarily until electricity returns. “The water comes right down Marengo and into our driveway,” said Gerardo Menchaca, himself an insurance adjuster.
The Menchacas say the village’s first responders were on the scene immediately, along with a pumping unit from Clearview Plumbing & Sewer in Oak Park. Mayor Anthony Caldarone arrived on the scene at noon on Saturday and stayed until almost 9 p.m., they said.
Ten blocks south, on the 1300 block of Marengo, residents again lost power and basements began to fill with water.
“I heard the explosion about 6 a.m.,” said Fatenah Issa. “That’s when I knew another transformer had blown.” Issa was still reeling from the loss of one-of-a kind family items in the first flood, when her basement filled with 8 inches of water. Among the items destroyed were family letters, photos and musical instruments – including a handmade oud (guitar-like instrument) made by her now-deceased Iraqi father.
“What’s helping me mentally is I tell myself, ‘It’s just stuff.’ My house is still standing,” Issa says. After tearing out soggy drywall last month, Issa says she, like many of her neighbors, will leave the basement unfinished.
Neighbor Jerry Brown left his own basement filled with 11 inches of water and went to work Saturday morning driving a garbage truck for a private hauler in Westchester – another disaster-declared community, where he hauled away Dumpsterloads of commercial flood-destroyed trash. He returned home in early afternoon to face $2,500 in losses: a destroyed new refrigerator, washer and dryer, power tools and carpeting.
From the garbage-collector’s perspective, Brown says residents can make things easier by bagging their trash in “contractor bags! Cheap plastic bags are the worst,” said Brown.
John Hosty found out the hard way that his new sump pump wouldn’t work if electrical power went out – even though it had batteries. “My problem is with ComEd,” he says. If we had electricity in both, we’d have had a fighting chance,” Hosty said, referring to the two storms in a month.
The southeast corner of Forest Park lost power the night of June 23. Hosty’s replacement carpet from the June storm damage arrived a week ago Tuesday, he said. Unlike other neighbors, he still plans to refinish his basement, even after having already spent $10,000. He’s says he’s got a battery-powered backup for submersible pumps back-ordered at a local hardware store.
Ann and Bob Dorneker had pulled out the carpet and drywall and furniture from their teenage son’s former basement bedroom and planned to refinish the space – until sewage started spouting out of their shower toilet and sink, again. The sump pump couldn’t keep up and then stopped when the power failed.