Massive storm and floods keep Naperville in their grip Friday
Sun Staff April 18, 2013 10:30AM
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Updated: May 20, 2013 7:47PM
The six to eight inches of rain that fell on the Naperville area Wednesday and Thursday flooded streets and basements, closed schools and bridges, and caused everyone to nervously watch the level of every area body of water, especially the DuPage River.
Four of the city’s bridges over the river’s West Branch — those at Jefferson Avenue, Eagle Street, Main Street and Washington Street — remained closed Friday morning.
Fortunately, there are no reports of any deaths connected with the storms. That doesn’t mean there haven’t been plenty of accidents, stranded vehicles and other storm-related emergencies, such as when three teens fell out of a canoe and into the DuPage River Thursday afternoon.
The three male teens were paddling the canoe at 2:09 p.m. on the river near the Hillside Road Bridge just east of Washington Street when the canoe tipped over, said Naperville Fire Department Deputy Chief Rick Sander.
The fire and police department were called to the scene of the incident, and all the teens got to shore safely.
“Please stay out of the river and retention ponds,” Sander asked area residents. “There is no such thing as safe water.”
Sander also said the Fire Department between 7 p.m. Wednesday and 11 a.m. Thursday fielded 220 calls for assistance from local residents due to the weather.
The storms impacted local education as well. North Central College called off classes shortly after 9 a.m. Thursday, and School District 204 announced at 7:25 a.m. Thursday that schools were be closed for the day as buses were finding it too difficult to get around. District 203 kept its schools opened Thursday, although the day ended early and all afternoon and evening activities were cancelled. Both District 203 and 204 remained closed Friday, but North Central resumed its normal schedule.
The National Weather Service reported the East Branch of the DuPage River was at 20.9 feet as of 3:30 a.m. Thursday; flood stage is 19.5 feet. The river is expected to continue rising to 22.7 feet by early Friday, according to the agency, and a river flood warning was to remain in effect until 3 p.m. Sunday.
Sandbags were being placed at different spots along the river downtown early Thursday evening to deal with the rising waters. A number of businesses were closed Thursday evening due to the storm.
According to Bill Feldott, member of the family that owns the Lantern tavern downtown, he and others went and got their own sandbags early in the day, but city of Naperville employees brought a truck of sandbags to help them out.
The sandbags outside the Lantern Thursday night were three feet high.
Naperville officials closed the Eagle Street bridge over the West Branch of the DuPage River a few minutes after 4 p.m. Thursday, and the Washington Street bridge about 6 p.m. The city issued a plea for drivers and pedestrians to steer clear of the area around the waterway until the waters recede.
In DuPage County, some 39,000 sandbags had gone out to municipalities before 10 a.m., according to a press release that described the flooding as “severe.” More than two dozen residents had sought services at the county’s emergency shelter at Benedictine University in Lisle.
By early afternoon, the refuge in Benedictine’s Krasa Student Center had given relief to about 30 area residents unable to remain at home as the water poured in. They filled a student lounge area on the building’s main floor, many of them casting a wary eye on televised weather forecasts assuring more rain was on its way.
“We’re down to 22 now, because people were able to find family or friends. Some called their pastor,” said Michi Dubes, manager of emergency preparedness at the college.
Naperville city spokeswoman Kate Houlihan stressed the importance of avoiding areas where water has collected.
“There’s a saying: ‘Turn around, don’t drown.’ People definitely shouldn’t drive through flooded areas,” Houlihan said Thursday.
City public works crews, accompanied by police, were circulating in various districts, looking for trouble spots. Scattered power outages also were being addressed, and residents with flooded basements were being reminded to be cautious about electrical equipment and cords that may be located in those areas, to reduce the risk of electrocution.
The city by mid-morning Thursday made sand and sandbags available to residents who needed them.
Meanwhile, a map was prepared for posting on the city website to show areas that should be avoided by those who must venture out.
“It’s the best way for residents to see not only what roads are flooded but where the water is rising,” said Houlihan, who called the maps “a crucial tool for people to use.”