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Combined Rain and Melting Snow Poses Flooding Risk in Chicago

 Flooding in Chicago's Albany Park neighborhood on April 18, 2013. (Center for Neighborhood Technology / Flickr) Flooding in Chicago's Albany Park neighborhood on April 18, 2013. (Center for Neighborhood Technology / Flickr)

Update: Heavy Rain Causes Flooding, Sewer Backups in Chicago Area

A rainy forecast has Chicago poised for up to two inches of rain by Tuesday night. Coupled with unseasonably warm temperatures and piles of melting snow, that means the city faces an increased risk for flooding.

Combined rain and melting snow presents a particular challenge because the frozen or thawing ground can’t absorb the water, causing runoff to flow immediately into sewers, according to the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago.

To make room for runoff and mitigate flooding during the expected rainfall, MWRD announced that it has lowered water levels in the Chicago Area Waterway System.

But residents can also take steps to prevent flooding in their homes, the organization said.

MWRD Commissioner Kari K. Steele released a public service announcement Monday with three tips to prevent basement backups:

  • Reduce water usage while it’s raining by taking shorter showers and delaying use of a dishwasher or washing machine.
  • Disconnect downspouts and install a rain barrel to capture rainwater.
  • Do not flush personal care products, which can clog pipes and cause blockages in the water system.

“Our local sewers need that space during a heavy downpour,” Steele said. “These simple tips will make space available in your local sewers so water can travel to our system instead of your basement.”

MWRD also offers the following tips for minimizing flooding during heavy rainfall:

  • Ensure that storm drains are clear.
  • Keep areas around streams free of floatable debris.
  • Check your sump pump to make sure it is working properly.
  • Make sure your gutters are clear.

Chicago-area residents who observe flooding are directed to report it to their municipality. In Chicago, residents should call 311.

Residents can also sign up to receive alerts on Overflow Action Days, a program started by Friends of the Chicago River that provides water conservation reminders before and after rain events.

Contact Alex Ruppenthal: @arupp aruppenthal@wttw.com | (773) 509-5623


Related stories:

Tips for Conserving Water to Prevent Flooding in Chicago

Oct. 26: There are more soggy days ahead. Find out how you can help ease the burden on the Chicago River and reduce the risk of flooding.


Weekend Storm Overwhelms Chicago’s Sewer, Deep Tunnel System

Oct. 16: Chicago’s sewer and deep tunnel system couldn’t handle this weekend’s rain, allowing untreated sewage and stormwater into Lake Michigan.


Chicago Builds Underground Tunnel to Fight Flooding in Albany Park

Sept. 5: After heavy storms, the Chicago River’s North Branch floods hundreds of homes on the Northwest Side. The Chicago Department of Transportation is now constructing a permanent flood-fighting weapon. We take a look.


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