Prediction of warmer weather leads to concerns about flooding
By Stephanie Lulay email@example.com February 15, 2014 3:19PM
Snow is piled high along Route 47 in Sugar Grove. | Steve Lord~Sun-Times Media
Andrea Podraza, a civil engineer in Batavia’s Engineering Department, said Fox Valley homeowners can take action to prevent flooding due to melting snow.
Clear street drains of snow, ice and debris
Clear downspouts of any debris, and if possible, dig them out of snow piles
Clear any window wells of ice, leaves and other debris
Move snow from around your house to provide a clear drainage path away from your home
Ensure your sump pump is working property and test backup batteries
Make sure sump pump discharge pipe outside your home is not frozen, clogged or blocked by snow
Repair leaks or cracked basement walls and floors using waterproofing compounds
Make sure to direct all discharges away from house and locate them away from the foundation wall
Updated: March 17, 2014 11:39AM
AURORA — Weather experts are warning that flooding in the Fox Valley is possible if temperatures warm up as much and as quickly as predicted in the days ahead.
Although temperatures Monday are expected to top out at about 31 degrees, temperatures Tuesday and Wednesday are expected to reach 40 degrees, according to the National Weather Service forecast. On Thursday, temperatures are expected to reach 50 degrees. On Friday, weather experts predict a high of 41 degrees.
Temperatures at night Tuesday will reach a low of 26 degrees, but Wednesday’s low will likely hover at the freezing mark, 32 degrees. Thursday’s low is expected to be about 29 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.
With more than 60 inches of snow falling over northern Illinois this winter, the Kane County Office of Emergency Management in Geneva issued a warning Friday, urging homeowners to take precautions to prevent early spring flooding. The warning comes after a winter season in the Fox Valley that has been packed with snow and bitter cold.
The severity and timing of any flooding will depend largely on the weather conditions that occur during the melting period, according to the National Weather Service.
People living along rivers and in flood-prone areas should prepare now for the possibility of river flooding in the coming weeks, said David Beachler, meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Romeoville.
In the existing snow pack there are two to three inches of liquid, Beachler said Saturday. Because the ground is completely frozen — frozen up to 16 inches in some places — once that snow melts, the water won’t be absorbed by the ground, he said.
In the aftermath of a long and snowy winter, drains may be clogged with snow or long-buried under packed-in snow, Beachler said. Once snow melts, there may be no place for it to flow freely.
The melting snow will also cause additional runoff into streams, which are also “iced up,” Beachler said, and could lead to ice jams forming.
“That can very quickly cause flooding to streams and those living close to streams,” he said.
On top of the existing conditions that could cause flooding, there’s potential for more snow Monday and rain late in the week, too, which would add more water to the equation, Beachler said.
“The combination of all of those things leads to a very concerning situation that could happen,” Beachler said Saturday. “We don’t have anything definitive, but we are trying to raise awareness that there’s the potential for (flooding).”
In Aurora, city crews have begun clearing drains in some low lying area on the city’s Near East Side, Aurora spokesman Dan Ferrelli said Friday.
In addition to closely monitoring the forecast as the city heads into this week, Aurora crews will monitor intersections and roadways where melting snow may be likely to pond.
The city experiences snow melt every winter, Ferrelli said. After examining the recent forecast, Aurora officials do not believe the predicted warm up next week will present any more challenges than any other year.
“As it looks right now, the slow rising temperatures will not necessarily create ‘flood conditions,’” Ferrelli said.
Although temperatures are expected to head into the 40s and possibly hit 50 degrees, Ferrelli said that the predicted freezing temperatures at night would slow the melting process.
Water, sewer and street crews in the past have worked to push snow piles back to help clear the drains, according to Ferrelli. Packed snow around the drains will begin to melt simultaneously, too, he said.
In Oswego, crews are also working to clear drains in floodplains, said Oswego Public Works Director Jennifer Hughes. But she’s still holding out hope that Mother Nature’s warm up will work with them as snow disappears.
“All we can hope for is a slow rise in temperature,” Hughes said. “If the temperature rises quickly, the ground will not be able to absorb (the water).”
Andrea Podraza, a civil engineer in Batavia’s Engineering Department, urged homeowners to be patient with flooding if it does occur.
“This melting process may take longer than a normal rain event to drain away since the ground is frozen and some sewers may be covered or at their maximum capacity,” she said.
In the event of flooding, residents should not attempt to drive through flooded streets that are particularly deep, Podraza said.
If no improvement is made within 48-72 hours, Batavia homeowners can call the Stormwater Hotline at 630-454-2765.
Despite the possibility of flooding from the warm up, there is one thing area officials are looking forward to this week: simply the warmer weather the rising temperatures are predicted to bring.
Ferrelli said that Aurora crews responsible for clearing streets, repairing water mains and first responders have worked incredibly hard during this harsh winter.
“To say that the slow warm-up is welcome would be an understatement,” Ferrelli said.