Widespread Flooding Hits Chicago Region

Massive amounts of rain have hit the Chicago Region the past few days, resulting in widespread and damaging flooding in many communities along the Chicago, Des Plaines, Du Page, and Calumet Rivers, as recounted in this 19 April 2013 update from the Chicago Tribune. These photos taken in the Albany Park neighborhood on Chicago’s North Side illustrate how the North Branch of the Chicago River has inundated homes, flooded entire blocks, and blocked many streets. Also see these pictures from the Tribune‘s website.

River water levels are at or above flood stage in many areas, and the TARP (aka “Deep Tunnel”) stormwater reservoir systems operated by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District in Cook County is at fully capacity. Consequently, the District has released CAWS water into Lake Michigan from all three controlling structures, temporarily re-reversing the flow of the Chicago and Calumet Rivers and the North Shore Channel.As the MWRD notes in this press release from yesterday, 18 April 2013:

The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) has been working around the clock to provide flood protection for Cook County. We monitor the weather, and prior to major storms, we draw down the waterways to provide maximum capacity for stormwater. Our goal is to provide maximum capacity in the area waterways, tunnels and reservoir system to provide as much protection from flooding as possible.

When the Chicago area waterway levels are higher than Lake Michigan and predetermined elevations are reached, the MWRD opens control structures to move as much water as possible out of the system. This provides overbank flooding protection as well as more capacity for stormwater.

All systems are running at full capacity as approximately five inches of rain has fallen across the entire region.

We opened the gates at the locks at the following times: 1:25 a.m. at Wilmette Lock; 3:47 a.m. at Chicago River Controlling Works; and 6:15 a.m. at O’Brien Controlling Works and Lock. The locks will remain open until the situation is stabilized.

Currently, the Tunnel and Reservoir system, which is comprised of 109 miles of tunnel and two reservoirs, is 100% full. The Mainstream Tunnel was 100% full at 12:31 a.m. this morning and the Des Plaines Tunnel was 100% full at 3:30 a.m. this morning. The entire tunnel system holds 2.3 billion gallons.

We encourage the public to minimize their use of water in their homes to reduce the amount of water flowing into the sewer system during extraordinary rain events such as what is occurring. This will provide maximum capacity for combined stormwater flows.

Allison Fore
Public and Intergovernmental Affairs Officer
Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago
100 East Erie Street, Chicago, Illinois 60611

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