Farmers Insurance Company filed suit against nearly 200 governmental entities, including the City of Northlake, seeking reimbursement for claims paid to its policy holders as a result of the April, 2013 record floods. April, 2013 was the Chicago area’s wettest on record with 8.68 inches of rain. Five point fifty-five inches of that total fell during a two day period, April 17th and 18th. This was the highest 2 day record for April ever recorded.

An inch of rain falling evenly across the 945 square miles of Cook County produces 16 billion gallons of water. Some 80 billion gallons of water fell on Cook County during the period April 17 and 18. The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District’s “Deep Tunnel” holds only 18 billion gallons of water.

With the “deep tunnel” full, as well as flood detention reservoirs at capacity, the ground already saturated, creeks, rivers and streams at capacity, and more rain continuing, the result was severe flooding. In Northlake, areas that had not seen flooding for years experienced flooding. The Doyle Detention Basin at North and Railroad Avenues overflowed as did the large retention pond known as “Structure 86” behind West Leyden High School. Smaller detention areas were overwhelmed.

No municipal system is designed to hold or convey the amount of water that was dumped on our area in April, 2013. We experienced similar rain falls in July, 2010 and 2011.

The City of Northlake has a long history of trying to control and manage flooding which has plagued the area since incorporation in 1949. In the 1970’s the Doyle Detention Basin was constructed at North and Railroad Avenues to alleviate the chronic flooding which closed North Avenue and Lake Street during every rainstorm.

In the 1980’s, Structure 86, behind West Leyden High School, as well as detention ponds on Railroad Avenue and County Line Road were built to control runoff into Addison Creek. At the same time, the huge Redmond Reservoir was built in Bensenville to hold back water which would feed into Addison Creek and into Northlake. All of these systems, which have worked well under normal conditions, were overwhelmed by the super storm of April, 2013.

Also, in the 1980’s, City wide storm sewers, along with curb and gutters, were built to alleviate localized flooding. In 2000, the City purchased 10 homes along Addison Creek south of North Avenue and excavated the area to increase storm water capacity.

Over the last few years, the City has purchased flood prone homes on 45th and 46th Avenues which were demolished and will make way for additional excavation to increase flood capacity of Addison Creek. In addition, the two acre site at 46th and Hirsch, which was the location of Mark Twain School, will be excavated to a depth of 2-3 feet as a dry bottom reservoir and green space to handle storm sewer backups.

Planning is also underway for major channel improvements along Addison Creek north of North Avenue with work to begin in 2015. Over the past 35 years, the City of Northlake has spent millions on flood issues and will continue to do so in the future. However, we can not prevent rain storms of the type we received in 2010, 2011 and 2013, any more than we can prevent tornadoes or severe blizzards. Again, no municipal system is designed to hold or convey the amount of water which we received during those storms and even if such a system were built, there is a chance that it too will be overwhelmed by a larger natural disaster. I’m sure that when the earlier flood control measures that I outlined were built, the people in charge at that time thought they had solved the flooding problem, which they did for a time, but Mother Nature has a way of showing us who is in charge.

Going forward, the City will continue to advance flood management projects and will continue to require large developments to contain or restrict their runoff.

It certainly seems to me that Farmers Insurance is doing what most people think insurance companies do – enhance their bottom line.

(My thanks to MWRD Commissioner Debra Shore for the information used to contribute to this article.)


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