By Gary Gibula, Karen Ann Cullotta and Mitch Smith, Chicago Tribune
11:05 PM EDT, April 21, 2013
After a mighty storm brought record river levels and flooding to Chicago and its suburbs late last week, some neighborhoods are still sopping up the mess.
In a hard-hit section of Wheaton, about a dozen industrial-sized dumpsters sat on streets and driveways as residents threw out piles of household possessions, including couches, televisions and entertainment centers, that were ruined in by floodwaters.
Randy Rasmussen, who lives with his wife and three children in the subdivision west of South Lambert Road and south of 22nd Street, said water reached the ceiling of his finished basement last week.
"It was just gushing," said his wife, Peggy. "But we're fortunate to all be safe."
But even with thunderstorms forecast for overnight Monday into Tuesday, the high water is forecast to continue receding, meteorologist Tim Seeley said Sunday night.
Flood victims across the Chicago area spent Sunday cleaning up the damage.
Jay Valentine, who works at the water-damage restoration company AdvantaClean, said he has seen dozens of extensively damaged homes since Thursday. His crews were at homes in Naperville tearing out ruined drywall this weekend.
"A number of our customers had built elaborate media rooms, which ... (are) now are under 3 or 4 inches of water," Valentine said. "We're going into these homes, and they have all of their belongings piled up everywhere. They've got their mementos, keepsakes and children's artwork stacked up high."
The homes of some Des Plaines residents were still partially under water Sunday, as the Des Plaines River receded from its record high of 10.92 feet to slightly more than 10 feet by Sunday evening.
Rosa and Cristian Valdivieso returned to their flood-ravaged, first-floor apartment on Oakwood Street on Sunday for the first time since they were evacuated Thursday. They are waiting to hear back from their landlord about whether they'll receive any assistance in the cleanup. The complex took a direct hit from the Des Plaines River as it spilled over onto nearby River Road last week.
"We tried to put our furniture up on bricks before we left, which helped a little but not a lot," said Cristian Valdivieso, who said in addition to the family's carpeting and furniture destroyed by flood waters, the family's car likely sustained water damage.
Still, water levels are dropping in Des Plaines.
"Things are improving with the river receding. But our police and fire departments still both have extra staff out to assist residents and this will be an ongoing effort," said Karen Kozenczak, director of media relations for the city of Des Plaines.
Residents throughout the Chicago area worried about how they will pay for the damage to their property.
The Illinois Emergency Services Management Association on Monday will send six teams to assess damage in McHenry County.
Tina Hill, the County Board chairwoman, said county officials also will assess damage in an effort to jump-start the process of applying for federal emergency management grants.
As residents assessed damage to their homes and property, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Sunday offered a potential solution to flooding problems for residents of the Albany Park neighborhood.
Emanuel and representatives of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District said they plan to move forward with the construction of a tunnel that officials say would curtail future floods in the neighborhood from the Chicago River.
Emanuel said the tunnel, which will cost between $45 million and $55 million, will provide security for those with riverside homes. Construction, expected to take 18 to 24 months, could start next year, officials said.
"This is the right type of fix that needs to happen, the right investment so that people do not have their lives disrupted every five years," Emanuel said.
Chicago set a record for rain over a two-day period in April, with 5.55 inches Wednesday and Thursday, and the most rain ever on April 17, with 2.01 inches, according to the National Weather Service.
The weekend was marked by extraordinary efforts made by volunteers, officials in several counties said.
In McHenry County's Nunda Township, affected by Fox River flooding, at least 800 volunteers and township employees had delivered about 60,000 sandbags since the flooding began, township supervisor Lee Jennings said.
Joel Dolleton, of Crystal Lake, crouched near a newly purchased Nunda Township sandbagging machine with his two sons, 16 and 12.
"We thought we could at least spare a few hours here," Dolleton said.
Tribune reporter Ellen Jean Hirst and freelance reporter Mark Shuman contributed. Mitch Smith is a Tribune reporter. Gary Gibula and Karen Ann Cullotta are freelance reporters.
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