Tuesday, September 30, 2008

News: Lessons of '86 helped, couldn't prevent new flood

Source: Daily Herald

Last week's flooding along the Des Plaines River sparked memories of the twin deluges of 1986 and '87, while raising questions as to why the lessons of 20 years ago couldn't prevent a repeat.

Experts say stormwater improvements inspired by those '80s floods aren't complete even now. Even if they were, they wouldn't necessarily have been able to hold back the downpour of Sept. 13.

The '86 flood was caused by days of rain that made the river level rise gradually. On Oct. 1, 1986, it crested in Des Plaines at 2 feet above the previous 1938 record and took a week to recede from thousands of homes and businesses.

The storm of Aug. 13-14, 1987, was a more sudden onslaught, with 9-plus inches of rain reported in 18 hours at O'Hare International Airport.

That deluge caused even more regional damage - and inspired officials not to take catastrophic flooding as isolated, once-in-a-lifetime events.

The recent storm was like a combination of '86 and '87, said Des Plaines Director of Engineering Tim Oakley. While caused by a single, deluge like in '87, it had its strongest effect on the river, similar to but not as bad as '86.

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