Some Lake County communities have experienced significant flooding over the past several years. During the summer of 2008, 408 structures along the Fox River and Chain O’Lakes were damaged, which resulted in state and federal disaster declarations, opening the door for financial aid.
Frozen ground and downpours increase the risk of flooding in Lake County this time of year. The Lake County Stormwater Management Commission (SMC) offers tips on how to reduce your chances of flooded yards and basements, and understanding Lake County’s vulnerability to flooding.
Sump Pumps and Storm Sewers
- Have your sump pump checked for proper operation. Many sump pumps have plastic impellers that can become damaged and no longer pump water as fast as they should.
- Check the battery on your back up sump pump to make sure it is properly charged.
- Check the check valve for proper operation.
- Check the discharge line on your sump pump to remove bends as much as possible. The amount of water pumped decreases with increasing discharge line length, smaller diameter and any kind of obstructions. The sump pump should discharge at least 10-feet from the home foundation.
- If you live on a street with storm sewers and drainage swales, regularly clear the storm sewer grates of leaves and other debris, and the conduits underneath driveways.
- Know the flood prone areas in your community.
- Have a personal evacuation/communications plan.
- During the flood stay tuned to radio or TV to get the latest information. Weather radios are a good purchase.
- Pay attention to evacuation orders.
- Do not drive through flooded roadways.
- Check with your insurance agent about flood insurance coverage; most homeowners insurance does not cover floods. Your agent should be able to help you secure insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).
- Learn how to “flood proof” your home from the “Guide to Flood Protection in Northeastern Illinois.”
Things You Should Know About Lake County’s Vulnerability to Flooding
Familiarize yourself with these terms to help identify the types of flooding that impact Lake County:
- Flood: A temporary overflow of water onto lands not normally covered by water and that are used or usable by man, producing measurable property damage or forcing evacuation of people and vital resources.
- Flash Flooding: Quickly rising small streams after heavy rains or rapid snow melt. The North Branch of the Chicago River watershed can be “flashy.”
- Overflow of Storm Sewer Systems: Usually due to poor drainage, following heavy rain or rapid snowmelt.
Secondary effects of flooding can include loss of life; property damage and destruction; damage and disruption of communications, transportation, electric service and community services; crop and livestock damage and loss and interruption of business. Hazards of fire, health and transportation accidents; and contamination of water supplies and wells are likely effects of flooding situations.
There are four major river systems that either run the entire length of the county or impact a portion of it. There are over 400 miles of streams that drain into over 170 lakes and rivers throughout the 480 square miles of the county. The susceptibility of the major river basins to flooding is assessed by:
- The extent of the drainage area.
- Extent of stormwater infrastructure available.
- The extent of development on the flood plain.
Historically, minor to moderate flooding occurs annually and those areas affected are usually prepared to deal with it. Major flooding, while less frequent, has occurred and major property damage has resulted. Illinois does require realtors to disclose to potential buyers that structures are in flood hazard areas where flood insurance is required. Your municipality, Lake County and the Lake County Stormwater Management Commission have copies of the National Flood Insurance Rate maps, also known as floodplain maps. These maps will show the flood hazard areas where flood insurance is required. You can also link to FEMA’s on-line Map Store.
As the ground slowly thaws and the inevitable rains come our way, be prepared by knowing your flood risk, watching the weather forecast and purchasing a weather radio.