(This entry is from last week, April 15th-20th.)
Currently, if you have not heard, or are not from the area, Illinois is experiencing some major flooding. It has been raining for almost a week now, and the Illinois River has not even crested, yet. Some towns are halfway underwater, and almost every single bridge across the Illinois River has been closed due to high waters. The damage is enormous, and many people are now displaced, or even worse, altogether homeless. For those who have flood insurance, things are still bad, but you can recover financially and physically. For those without flood insurance, this may be just what puts them over the edge into poverty.
At first, you heard about Chicago and the suburbs flooding. Entire expressways were shut down, as well, along with major roads and de-elevated underpasses. Chicago, being primarily covered in hard, non-permeable surfaces, is at much higher risk for immediate flooding from very intense storms. It can only drain as fast as its sewage system can handle, so the rate in which it drains water is far slower than in a natural area with open fields. The same things goes for the suburbs, but on a smaller scale. Suburbs usually have more options and availability for water runoff, have open soils that can absorb rain easily, and thus can handle quick, extreme storms more gracefully than the city. Unfortunately, the rain was so great this week, that both system were overloaded.
After retention ponds fill, the water tends to flow to the nearest creek or stream. The creeks will be the first waterway to react to this rain, filling with water above their normal heights, and flowing with such intensity and force, that once was a small creek, can now be deadly rapids. Houses around the creeks are vulnerable, as the creeks very rarely flood, if even at all, thus fooling people into a false sense of security. As the creeks and streams start to flow, they combine with other creeks. Eventually, they all converge into a river. The flooded areas around various creek begin to drain, as the river height increases, thus transferring the destruction to another area. Unlike creeks, rivers take a little longer to react, due to their large size. Once they do, however, it takes far longer for them to drain, compared to a creek. Some rivers will converge into one main river, which takes even longer than the small rivers, but comes with such incredible force that once cannot help but to be in awe. Some rivers will crest ( the highest level they reach) days after the main downpour, as it takes some time for all the drainage to occur. Areas with large percentages of non-permeable surfaces (roads, parking lots, buildings) will experience the most dramatic flooding, as drainage is reduced severely.
The worst damage I witnessed was around the Illinois River. The flooding was so extreme, that some towns were halfway underwater. The water level was raised so much, that tugboats were in people’s backyard, and barges broke loose from their moorings, floating down river uncontrolled, and eventually crashing into the Marseilles lock & dam.
The following images display graphical data about the Illinois Rivers’ height and flow during this flood:
The following link shows a video of the chaos, and the barges hung up on the Marseilles lock: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=evVoUcJ8wOs.
This video gives a very shocking display of nature’s power, and a aerial perspective that really captures the damage that has occurred. Requiring a tugboat to be moved, the barges lack an engine, carry a large amount of materials, and are at the whim of whatever force moves them. It was reported that 7 barges had broke loose, with 4 of them sinking. Coal, corn, and caustic soda were amongst the raw materials carried by the barges.
The following photos are from various towns along the Illinois River, depicting some serious flooding: