Residents in areas of Elmhurst most notorious for flooding say if it had rained just one more hour on Saturday, their homes would have seen damage similar to that sustained during last April's 100-year flood.
It rained for perhaps less than two hours on Oct. 5, but Crescent Avenue east of York, the 800 block of Parkside and Pine Street farther north were all under water—almost knee-deep in some areas.
Pine Street resident David Reginelli told Elmhurst City Council members Monday that he and his neighbors "can't live like this anymore."
"Saturday started off a normal day," he said. "When it started raining, my son started (saying), 'It's going to flood! It's going to flood!' I told him, 'No, it's not.' But sure enough, he was right."
He said the water was halfway up his front lawn. He blamed new construction for contributing to the problem, but said solutions the city has been investigating, like on-site water storage and turning Golden Meadows Park into a detention pond "won't solve anything on Pine."
"We need a pragamatic approach," he said. "I hope you're looking for (a new public works director) with a lot of experience in this matter. I know Elmhurst is friendly with builders … but that shouldn't come at the expense of a handful of us that have to deal with all that runoff."
He told aldermen to stop "buying more property and fix the basic infrastructure so this is a place we can live and not worry all the time."
Kathleen Sullivan also lives on Pine. She addresses the City Council every time it rains—and many times when it doesn't.
"I hardly know what I can add to the comments I have given you over the years," she said. "We flooded again on Saturday, and the rainstorm was much briefer than before. It was minutes away from entering the houses to significant levels again. It is not getting better."
She said a number of things need to be done, some of which the city is looking at now, but it's taking too long.
"It's just got to get fixed," she said. "Spending money on other things is wasteful. You're not meeting our basic needs. You really, really need it to get going. It's just got to go faster. This is just so incredibly slow and painful."
City Manager Jim Grabowski said the storm "came out of nowhere" on Saturday, dumping 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 inches of water in a half hour. He said all the city's pumping stations and equipment functioned "the way they were supposed to," including the underpass, which held several feet of water for four hours.
"(Salt) Creek came up 3 to 3 1/2 feet. It was significant," he said. "A lot of street flooding was due to the leaves in the street blocking the grates."
He said he appreciated that people were out cleaning the sewer grates, and that the city will aggressively continue to clear leaves from the streets.
Julie Gatesman lives on the 800 block of Parkside. She said prior to the meeting that water collects in front of her house every time it rains—even after only 20 minutes of rain. She and her daughter took pictures of people out raking the leaves away from the storm drains—a common activity during a rain—but she said the leaves aren't always the problem.
"We go through this in the summer, too, when there are no leaves in the street," she said. "We are so low where we are, this happens all the time."
Twenty-three-year Howard residents Rose and Tom Schowalter had a somewhat different problem caused by rain—and new construction next door. The earth underneath their driveway was washed away Saturday, leaving a ditch 30 feet long by 10 feet deep, a "cliff right off my driveway," Tom said. He said it's "terrifying" to try to navigate that with his car.
They questioned how the city's building code allow for a home to be built so close to another property as to "cave in and collapse" the neighboring home's driveway.
"I really feel this is an intrusion," he said. "What's going to happen a year from now when that earth settles? I want assurance that if it fails down the road, (the builder) will be responsible."
Third Ward Alderman Michael Bram said he visited the Schowalter's home.
"It is very scary," he said. "No exaggeration whatsoever. Pretty much the dirt has washed away from the rain, underneath their driveway."
He suggested the city consider tightening its building code with regard to how much a builder can excavate and how close to a neighboring home.
"I'd be more than willing to looking into (that)," he said.
A number of measures related to improving stormwater management also were passed as part of the consent agenda Monday.