Floodwaters recede, but Lake County officials warn they'll be back

News from the media

By Doug T. Graham, Daily Herald, September 17, 2019

As homeowners continue to deal with the impacts of flooding from recent heavy rains, Lake County officials on Tuesday said residents should expect to see more of the same in the years to come.

During a presentation on increasing rainfall in the region -- an event planned well before the most recent flooding began last week -- officials said floods are becoming more frequent in Lake County.

Mike Warner, executive director of the Lake County Stormwater Management Commission, said there have been an average 1.8 major floods a year in Lake County over the last 120 years. But last year there were six such events, more than twice as many as any other year, and the county has seen five floods so far in 2019.

"We on the county board take this very seriously," Lake County Board Chairwoman Sandy Hart said after the presentation at the Warren-Newport Public Library in Gurnee. "People who have never been impacted by flooding are having problems at their homes, and more roadways are closing during major storm events than ever before."

Lake County Board Member Steve Carlson also attended the presentation.

"We're going to have to upgrade our standards to accommodate for a changing world, for lack of a better term," Carlson said. "Society is going to have to change the way it looks at things, whatever you think is the cause."

Kurt Woolford, chief engineer of the stormwater commission, offered advice on how to prevent home damage. The best way, he said, is keeping rainwater away through working gutters and downspouts, as well as having a positive slope that prevents water from collecting near a building's foundation.

If there isn't a way to force water away from a home, residents should consider building permanent flood walls or implementing temporary walls like those made with sandbags, he said.

Jack Linehan, the assistant to the Gurnee village manager, said the village recommends that residents who built sandbag walls for the latest flooding keep them in place for at least a few more days.

"It is really hard to re-sandbag an area," Linehan said. "We'll hopefully give an all-clear later this week or weekend."

By 2 p.m. Tuesday, floodwaters had receded enough to allow the village to reopen the section of Grand Avenue between Route 21 and O'Plaine Road that had been closed over the weekend.

"Having Grand Avenue open will really help residents and travelers," Linehan said.

However, the Chain O' Lakes and the Fox River remain closed to recreational boating because of high water and debris.