Road closures, flooding abound in Joliet area
By Cindy Cain, Janet Lundquist and Mitch Dudek Sun-Times Media April 18, 2013 5:49PM
Updated: May 21, 2013 6:09AM
When he saw the dream house he’d already put a deposit on partially submerged in rain water Thursday, Joe Stoffey began to swear under his breath.
“Why is this happening?” he thought. His girlfriend, Chrissy Wild, began to cry.
A small lake of water separated the couple from checking the damage. The for sale sign in front of the two and half story New Lenox home was submerged up to the Realtor’s name. They left and returned with an inflatable kiddy pool and two cedar planks: A boat and oars.
They floated in their makeshift vessel to the front doorstep, not knowing what to expect. The owner, a man who’d sent his pregnant wife to higher ground hours earlier and was stranded at the home, came outside.
“Hello. We’re not crazy. We’re just checking on you, and we’re buying the house from you,” said Wild, 30, who’s training to be nurse.
“He welcomed us onto the deck and he offered us a beer and we talked to him for a little bit,” said Stoffey, 30. “The garage and first floor had flooded. But he said they’re going to make sure everything’s cleaned up and taken care of before the closing,” said Stoffey, an oil refinery worker.
After some soul searching, the couple decided to continue with the purchase. “We still want it. We still love it. The good things in life are worth fighting for,” said Chrissy.
Joliet-area residents found themselves waterlogged in the wake of heavy rains Thursday. Some places — such as parts of Plainfield and Morris — had it worse than others.
Still, residents were doing their best to cope with flooded basements and roads, school closings and an array of other problems associated with the relentless rain.
In Morris, water in the basement prompted officials to evacuate the Morris Hospital, sending its patients to neighboring hospitals.
The Will County Emergency Management Agency was making sandbags available for homeowners.
Plainfield police were warning residents about the DuPage River rising to dangerous levels, and some residents in the Marycrest subdivision had to be evacuated by the fire department. By noon Thursday at least two families from the 13900 block of Marybrook Drive were sheltering in the fieldhouse at Plainfield Central High School.
Sierra Brady, 10, breathlessly recounted the morning’s events while her mother, Dawn Moss, sat at a folding table and listened. Brady actually woke Moss up early to look at the water, Moss said.
“This is the worst it’s been,” Moss said, adding that Marycrest subdivision has had flooding problems before.
“Picnic benches are just floating down the river,” Moss said, adding that she packed overnight bags for her four children and left the house when fire officials recommended they leave.
Three houses down, Diane Hill evacuated herself, her children, two dogs and a cat.
“This happened really fast,” Hill said, adding that Plainfield police and fire officials were helpful, providing dry clothes and the shelter.
“Firemen had to pull our cars out (of water),” Hill said.
Before she left, she said she watched water pour into her basement windows. “I’m sure everything in my basement is gone,” she said.
Down the street, Autumn McMillan and Nick Theis packed up all they could and left their house with more than 2 feet of water in the basement. Theis said he saw the water rising about 6 a.m. Soon it was over a retention wall in their back yard, he said.
Thursday afternoon, Patrick Hill, 19, and Faith Hill, 14, drove through the neighborhood, hoping to check their house, but it was on the other side of a deeply flooded road.
“We were moving out in three weeks. We just lost everything,” Patrick Hill said. “It’ll be an easy move.”
Several roads were closed throughout the area, and some schools and forest preserves were closed, too.
In the Joliet area, Will County Emergency Management Agency workers dropped off bags for sandbagging at the Shorewood Police Department and the Plainfield Township Highway Department building. Homeowners can use sand from a sandbox or go to a home improvement store to fill them and create a barrier around doors or window wells, EMA director Harold Damron said.
He added that one of the biggest problems is drivers who are trying to pass through flooded areas and are stuck.
“You can’t judge how deep the water is,” Damron said. “You can’t tell if the water is 6-inches deep or 3-feet deep.”
Damron said the Joliet area received about 1.5 inches of rain Wednesday and almost 2.5 overnight.
The DuPage River at Shorewood was at 7.4 feet, above the 6.5-foot flood stage. And the river was projected to peak at 9 feet by Friday morning, he said.
Joe Medveskas, who lives near the recently constructed Renwick Road bridge over the DuPage River, said crews flattened the river bank when the new bridge was built, causing their house to flood as soon as water started to rise.
“An extra hour or two makes a huge difference” Medveskas said. “There was no time; it just flooded.”
Sharon Hrebec, of the 700 block of Bluff Street in Joliet, said she had been up since 6 a.m. using a wet vac to keep her unfinished basement dry.
Whenever it rains a few inches, Old Faithful — a storm sewer across the street — starts to bubble up and area basements flood, she said.
The “geyser” is next to the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, just south of where the Des Plaines River joins it.
“All the water comes down from Broadway to the drain,” she said. “When it’s this high, they open the locks (in Lockport). They’ve got to let the water go somewhere.”
Tony Hertko, manager of the Raven’s Club, which is next door to Hrebec’s home, said the club had to install a $4,000 check valve six years ago to keep storm and sewer water from flooding the basement. When the valve is turned on, no water can leave the building, either. So the toilets can’t be flushed. But the valve was worth it, Hertko said.
“We’ve never had water since,” he said.
Lynda Rohr, of Shorewood, said the flooding in her back yard was receding but that it would quickly reverse if the rain continues.
If that happens, Rohr said she expects water in her home, too, but for now, she’s afraid for the safety of local wildlife.
“I saw a raccoon scurrying into shelter this morning,” Rohr said. “I think she was moving the kits to a drier location, poor babies.”
In New Lenox, public works Supt. Ron Sly said a number of roads were closed throughout the village.
Vine Street was closed north of U.S. 30, Nelson Road was flooded at Illinois Highway, and along Illinois Highway from Nelson Road to Gougar Road near Lincoln-Way West High School as corn stubble and debris from the fields had washed onto the road. Crews had to use snowplows to clear it.
Oak Street, which runs along Hickory Creek, east of Cedar, also was closed. The area typically floods in a heavy rain. Village officials went door to door earlier to warn residents in the area to move their cars so they would not be stranded.
Except for Oak and Vine, most roads were passable, Sly said.
One car was towed from the Metra parking lot on U.S. 30 after the driver drove into a pond in the lot, he said.
The situation was similar in Mokena. Village administrator John Downs said Old LaGrange Road at 191st Street was closed due to flooding — a normal trouble spot.
LaGrange Road was down to one lane near LaPorte Road because of standing water.
There had been no property damage or flooding in homes reported, he said. A groundbreaking ceremony for a new park in Mokena was canceled, however.
In Homer Township, 167th Street was closed from Parker Road to South Bell Road, and Cedar Road north of 143rd Street was closed.
An Illinois State Police traffic alert said the following Will County roadways were closed as of 3 p.m. Thursday: U.S. 30 from 111th to 127th streets; U.S. 52 at Gallagher and Gougar roads, New Avenue between 127th and 135th streets, U.S. 6 from 187th Street to Will-Cook Road, Caton Farm Road between Bonesch and Bronk roads, and Seil Road between Interstate 55 and the river.
Kendall County roadway closures were Illinois 47 at Plattville Road and U.S. 52 from Jughandle Road to Illinois 47.
In Grundy County, Bell Road was closed west of Ridge Road.
State police recommend using caution while traveling along wet roadways due to the potential to hydroplane; avoiding passing through water that is covering roadways; and being aware that shallow water flowing across a roadway is capable of pushing a vehicle off the road.
More road condition information is available at (800) 452-4368 or gettingaroundillinois.com.
Contributing: Cindy Wojdyla Cain, Janet Lundquist, Denise M. Baran-Unland, Susan DeMar Lafferty, Mike Deacon and Jessi Virtusio.