While Sunday’s flooding wasn’t bad enough to cause the Des Plaines River to overflow, Forest Park still saw many flooded basements, and the Eisenhower Expressway was flooded between Desplaines and Circle avenues for much of July 2.
Flooding has been an ongoing issue in Forest Park, as it has for other communities near the river. Mayor Rory Hoskins told the Review that, even with that in mind, the July 2 flooding was “record-breaking.” Still, some of its impact was blunted by the sewer separation work the village has begun in recent years, and the Department of Public Works was able to take advantage of a catch basin clean-up truck the village purchased last year.
According to Sal Stella, public works director, Forest Park received around six inches of rainfall within 12 hours – which, he noted, still left the village better off than Cicero, which received as much as nine inches of rain, and Oak Park and Berwyn.
“After seeing videos of Cicero, where their streets looked like a river, we were not so bad,” he said. “All our streets were passable.”
Hoskins said that by Sunday morning it was apparent that the section of the expressway that went through Forest Park was flooded “in both directions.” Stella said that the flooding “left motorists stranded for hours.” CTA suspended service on the section of the Blue Line between the Harlem station and the Forest Park terminal. Service was restored by late evening, and there were no issues with service by Monday morning.
“There was some standing water at some catch basins throughout town,” Stella said. “I had an employee working all day that was going up and down every street to clear the leaves off the catch basin lids so the streets remained passable.”
The officials said many homes and some businesses got flooded, but they didn’t have any exact numbers. Hoskins and Commissioner of Streets & Public Improvements Michelle Melin-Rogovin confirmed to the Review that the statistics included their own basements.
Stella said part of the issue was that the water was coming into Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Great Chicago facilities from all over the region, which left it saturated.
“As soon as the system from MWRD to the communities caught up, the water receded quickly and people’s basements saw relief,” he said.
To reduce flooding in the long run, Forest Park has been separating the sewer and stormwater pipes one block at a time, but progress has been slow and largely contingent on availability of federal and/or state funding. Hoskins said some of the worst flooding took place in the areas that were on Forest Park’s to do list.
“Total separation costs [for the entire] area are very expensive,” Hoskins said. “It’s not something that be done in one year or even five years, but we’re constantly looking for funding to continue the sewer separation.