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Weather Updates

Naperville reopening downtown bridges as water recedes

Updated: April 23, 2013 12:35PM



Daily routine near the swollen West Branch of the DuPage River in Naperville was steadily returning to normal levels this weekend, as crews worked on the aftermath of the extraordinary rainfall earlier in the week.

The rainfall was so bad all four bridges stretching over the waterway downtown were closed Thursday. They were reopened on Friday.

The work to clean up from the flood, though, is continuing. The memories of the storms will linger for quite a while longer.

Flood of problems

The rains which crippled the Naperville area did more than just snarl traffic or wash out sporting events. As the waters slowly shrank away from walkways, streets, bridges and more, folks in Naperville spoke Saturday about a variety of setbacks that ranged from longer days at work to losing money from the cash register.

Mary Bazan of Naperville said she works downtown at One Mortgage Inc. at 564 S. Washington St. and that the office was closed one day this week “since employees couldn’t get in.”

“We had to shut down for a day, and I know that the rain really affected people’s travel times to work or wherever they were going,” Bazan said. “My son works in Glen Ellyn, and it took him 3½ hours to get there from here. We had no flooding at our house, but there is a huge retention area nearby that filled, and water was running all along the road. I know a lot of basements were flooded, but we were fortunate our pumps didn’t back up.”

Deborah Schneider of Naperville wasn’t so lucky with her home that she currently rents here in town. A total of 10 inches of water entered her basement, she said, but the landlord quickly came to address the issue.

“I’m thankful that I’m renting and not owning this house,” Schneider said. “The owner came over and got the water out fairly quickly and there have been fans running to dry things out. I didn’t lose anything valuable because I don’t use the basement at all for storage.”

Schneider said she still experienced a personal loss, however, as the manager of Marbles The Brain Store here in Naperville.

“Business was terrible this week and has been pretty much been bad all spring so far because of the weather,” she said.

Some found that the storms provided an opportunity to do something out of the ordinary from their local routine. Josh Peck of Lombard said that Thursday he worked here in Naperville for nearly an hour throwing around 45-pound sandbags.

“We worked along the river here downtown for nearly an hour,” he said. “My commute to work was nearly double what it normally was. A bunch of us volunteered to haul the sandbags and we got a good workout from it. All of the sand was wet and was a lot heavier.”

While thousands in the area were affected in ways that ranged from power outages to loss of property, some managed to keep the storms in perspective. Ian Scarlett of Aurora said he normally works in Des Plaines for the Cisco Systems Company, but because his job is in sales, he was able to work from home this week. His wife, who works for a relocation company in Lisle, wasn’t so lucky.

“I just stayed home and worked, but a number of the activities involving me and our kids were changed,” he said. “Both of the kids’ soccer games were canceled, and I work as a referee for soccer games and those games were cancelled as well.”

Scarlett said his wife battled closed roads and flooded streets to get to Lisle, only to be sent home after the decision was made to close the office. Scarlett said given the recent events in the world, the local rains this week weren’t actually that big of a deal.

“On the disaster scale from one to 10, I’d give this about a ‘six’ at best,” he said. “There are certainly worse things that have happened.”

Drying out

The biggest concern for a while in Naperville was the DuPage River overflowing downtown, but Friday saw relief from that fear.

“The water in the downtown is receding much more rapidly than we anticipated,” City Manager Doug Krieger said Friday morning.

The quickly lowering levels, he said, could be traced mostly to DuPage County partially reclosing the gates at the Fawell Dam, upstream of the city. The dam was completely opened late Thursday and was put back to 75 percent open the next morning, Krieger said.

“It basically should reduce levels by 18 inches,” Krieger said. “That’s how much the water came up when the gates were opened, and that was why we had to close the bridges.”

In other parts of the city, residents were cleaning up flooded basements and awaiting scheduling commitments from flood restoration services, which reportedly were inundated with callers needing help.

Also keeping the lines busy at the height of the storm were callers to Naperville’s public safety dispatchers, who fielded some 750 calls in the 24-hour period that began when the rain started to come down Wednesday evening.

“Between the hours of 3 and 8 yesterday, there were 124 9-1-1 calls, and 90 of them required a response,” said Linda LaCloche, Naperville communications manager, late Friday morning.

The most dire point in the ordeal, Krieger said, came late Thursday.

“Both the local rain and the upstream rain kind of concentrated in the downtown, and that was last evening,” he said.

In all, the city’s non-emergency dispatch number took 2,298 storm-related calls, LaCloche said.

As of Friday morning, 50 residents had called to say their sewers were backing up into their homes.

“It’s just the deluge of water. They’re trying to pump it in and pump it out,” LaCloche said. “When you have a rain event there’s always a chance of something like that happening.”

DuPage County emergency management workers were addressing the storm’s aftermath as well.

“At this time we’ve been getting calls from all over the county,” said Sabit Abbasi, spokesman for the county’s Emergency Operations Department.

“Right now we are working with our municipal and township partners to assess the damage from the flooding.”

The county planned to open a call center for residents and business owners in unincorporated areas to use for reporting flood damage their homes have sustained.

“It is important that they document and photograph the flood damage to show proof of loss,” County Board Chairman Dan Cronin said in a press release.

The center, to be open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday and Monday through Friday next week, can be reached at 630-407-6700. Callers will be asked to provide specific details about their flooding and to reveal whether they have insurance to cover the flood damage.

Residents who live in a municipality should call their local government to provide the same information, DuPage County officials said.



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