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City officials: Flooding affected every Aurora ward

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Updated: April 21, 2013 6:20PM



AURORA — East Side, West Side — Mother Nature played no favorites with the flood that hit Aurora late this week.

Heavy rains and saturated ground meant some residents in every one of the city’s 10 wards were tackling flooding Friday.

The Aurora Police Department was slammed with multiple calls to rescue drivers stranded by flood waters on the city’s Far East Side streets yesterday and early today, said city spokesman Dan Ferrelli.

In a Far West section of Aurora, a neighborhood experienced a power outage that took out sump pumps. That obviously complicated matters for those residents without backup systems or generators to count on as the rained continued. On Thursday and Friday, city crews responded to 168 requests for service related to flooding.

But that’s just a dent in the calls the city has received. On Thursday, the city fielded 934 calls for service. Friday, they fielded an additional 226 calls, most of which were related again to the flood.

No significant number of flood-related calls were placed to fire and police departments after 12:30 p.m. today, Ferrelli said.

On Friday, city crews continued to address service calls from residents and check on streets that were previously flooded to monitor where and at what rate the water had subsided. Crews were also maintaining pumping equipment used in the field, and removing debris from clogged catch basins or flooded streets, Ferrelli said.

“We answered multipe calls for areas that had traffic barricades moved either purposely or on accident, such as being hit by a vehicle,” Ferrelli said. “Those devices had to be reinstalled.”

About 150 Aurora families picked up sandbags near Aurora’s Water Treatment Plant on Thursday. The city also will collect water-damaged carpet, drywall and furniture for one week at no cost, Ferrelli said. For more information, call the city’s Customer Service Department at 630-256-INFO.

Downtown buildings flooded

Water Street in Aurora’s downtown was lined with water-restoration company vans and industrial pumps Friday.

While city crews attempted to assist with residential issues during the flooding period, they also had quite a few key city-owned buildings to bucket out.

On Friday, buckets played a key role after a wall in an underground vault adjacent to the basement in City Hall along Downer Place began leaking. In total, the City Hall basement section closest to the Fox River collected about 16 inches of water due to the leak. Water has since been removed through deploying additional pumps to supplement the existing sump pump system at 44 E. Downer Place.

Ferrelli said buckets were placed underneath the leaking holes in the vault, and maintenace personnel handed the buckets as they became full to a line of other employees who then dumped the water into the Fox River.

“This was a proactive measure taken to prevent additional water from going into the basement,” he said. This was the first such problem experienced in the vault since it wasrestored with hydraulic patching.

The lowest part of the basement of the Elmslie/Hogan Bulding at 47 E. Galena Blvd. near the Water Street Mall collected about 20 inches of water. As of 4 p.m. Friday, water was mostly removed.

The basement of the Aldermen’s Office, 60 E. Downer Place, collected 4 inches of water; Public Arts Center, 20 E. Downer Place, 4 inches; and the Aurora Fire Museum, 2 inches. Water was immediately removed at all locations, Ferrelli said.

Show goes on

Tim Rater, executive director of downtown’s Paramount Theatre, had to make a quick call when a backstage area flooded. Was the water too much to handle as the KAR Dance Competition, a 3-day event that brings in 5,000 kids, was set to arrive?

The theater worked around the 1-inch of standing water in some areas, opting for makeshift dressing rooms in the old lobby instead. With some minor “pooling” and “puddling,” the show went on.

For the most part, the theater, built in 1931, was lucky and Rater expects only minimal damage. All nine of the theater’s sump pumps worked, but the fire department did arrive Thursday when water running into an elevator shaft set off a fire control panel.

“It’s been worse,” Rater said, recalling the Flood of ‘96 when water filled the entire orchestra pit and touched the first row of seats for the audiences. “We could be looking at replacing the entire stage floor.”

After that flood, the theater added trenching and additional sump pumps “for exactly this reason,” he said.

“We’re prepared for flooding,” he said. “It’s a reality of living on an island.”

Closed by flooding

Culture Stock bookstore and the RiverFront Playhouse were both closed for business Friday because of flooding.

Volunteers at the spots along Water Street, both buildings owned by the city, faced significant flooding as both basements were flooded by river water, Ferrelli said.

Because of the flood, the RiverFront Playhouse will postpone opening its next show, “I’ll Be Back Before Midnight,” for at least one week.

At Culture Stock Friday, volunteer Jeanne Norris said the damange sustained to the non-profit’s used book collection — about 1,000 books in the basement — could have been much worse. Water neared 2 feet in the basement, but most books were moved out of cardboard boxes and onto dry tables in time, she said.

If it wasn’t for the city showing up to pump out the basement Friday morning, Norris said the plan was to wait for the water to recede.

“I am so pleased that the city’s pumping us out. I’m not sure what we would have done,” she said.

She said many Aurorans have offered up their fans, dehumidifiers and time to help. “We really do have a great posse of community-minded people.”

Popular downtown hangout River’s Edge Cafe was also closed Friday for water-related issues.

West Side issues

Alderman John “Whitey” Peters, 5th Ward, spent much of Thursday and Friday visiting his water-soaked West Side ward and taking lots of phone calls.

He’s still trying to figure out why there were new flooding issues, including sewer backups, in his 5th Ward.

“We had some problems where we’d never had them before,” he said. “And there were other places that maybe should have had issues but didn’t.”

Peters also expressed concern about “a special pump” in place for residents in the Cherry Hill area that needs to be manually turned on when flooding is at risk. But he questioned why, in this high-tech age, that pump can’t turn on automatically.

It’s an issue, Peters promised, that would be taken up immediately with the city’s Buildings and Grounds Committee he chairs.

At this point, there are more questions than answers, he said.

“But we are going to get to the bottom of it.”

Denise Crosby contributed to this report.



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