As Sunday’s rainstorm blew in and stayed for hours, Forest Parkers had an unpleasant deja vu to the summers of 2010 and 2011 when extreme storms filled basements with water, and many with sewage. Adding to the anxiety was a National Weather Service flash flood alert televised and even sent to many cellphones.
But the slow moving storm did not generate the massive amount of rainwater expected. The Des Plaines River rose to a maximum height of 4.9 feet at 10:30 p.m. and then receded. Flood stage is 7 feet. All in all, a total of 4.5 inches of rain was reported in Riverside by the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network of Northern Illinois.
Meanwhile, Forest Parkers at home at their computers expressed anxiety about flooded basements on the Facebook page “Forest Parkers Against Flooding.”
“Afraid to go down. Praying and praying and praying,” wrote Karen Rubio.
“It’s like post-traumatic stress syndrome,” said Mary Win Connor later. “When there’s a heavy rain like [Monday] you know there’s nothing you can do until it’s over.” The Connors live on the 200 block of Rockford.
“We’ve had flooding in the basement for 21 years,” said Connor. “But the last two years were off the charts. When I look outside and see the water flooding over the curb, that’s when I know I could get two feet of sewage in my house in 10 minutes.”
Connor and her husband installed a valved back-flow sewer system this year. “Sunday is the first day it was tested.” She said she still had water seeping into her basement, “but the really sad thing was I looked at the seepage and said, ‘Oh good.’ At least I didn’t have two feet of sewage in my basement.”
Connor said the family uses the basement as living space for her daughter, but “everything is up high. Her bed is like the princess and the pea. When it starts to rain we get everything off the floors.”
Since 2010, Forest Parkers have been taking any steps they can to try to keep basements dry, including disconnecting downspouts from the sewer system, re-grading the area around the building foundation, sealing the brickwork in basements, installing covered leaf gutters, installing overhead sewer systems, double-check valves, sump pumps and emergency power generators. The fixes can cost thousands of dollars – hard to scrape up in a bad economy.
“We’ve spent $20,000 on our basement in the past two years because of flooding and we were kicked off of our insurance because we maxed-out our $10,000 policy. We’ve replaced stairs, drywall, two furnaces, a dryer, cabinets, carpeting, tile. This has been my world for 21 years.”
The Village of Forest Park started the Flood Prevention Grant Program to assist residents with the costs of remediating their basements to stop sewer backups. The village rebates 50 percent (up to $1,500 or $2,000 for low income residents) to install village-approved flood prevention methods. Notices are enclosed in the November water bills, and residents have from Jan. 1 to Feb. 15 to apply. So far 56 families have taken advantage of the program in the past two years, said Village Executive Secretary Sally Cody. Unfortunately, the Connor’s construction schedule did not permit them to wait to find out if they qualified for the grant, so they proceeded without it. But others on Forest Parkers Against Flooding have applied for and received grant funds.
Sunday’s storm wasn’t strong enough to overflow sewer capacity as quickly and completely as the storms in 2010-11. But, Connor said, like many of her neighbors and Facebook compadres, a nighttime storm brought back awful memories.
“You don’t sleep. You’re terrified because you have a mental image of what happened last time,” said Connor.