Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Action After the Flood

What a difference a year makes.  It is not new news that last year, we were devastated by a flooded basement.  In the scheme of things, since we were safe, the home didn't fall down, and our monetary losses were not crippling, it was not the worst thing that has happened to us but it was bad none the less.  We cleaned up, I spent many weekends re-finishing the basement, and we got over it.  When I woke up last week at 4:00am to the sound of a belaboring fan from the air conditioner in the basement, the feeling of dread came rushing back.  This flooding was not as bad as last years because we were more prepared but it was just as upsetting.

This week, the flurry of activity in the wake of the flooding has been very different than last.  Since our cleanup went rather quickly, I had time to collect signatures for a petition to the Village to have some action on the issue.  In speaking with my neighbors, it became apparent that pretty much everyone on our street was affected and some were even more pissed off than myself.  I also took the time to attend a Village board meeting where people from the neighborhood voiced their concern, anger and dismay with how the issue of flooding has been handled in the OP.  The Village line has been "it's a historic storm, there is nothing we can do about it".    In case you are wondering what kind of rain we got, the State of Illinois has a neat chart here.  On July 24th, last year, Oak Park recorded 7.85 inches within a 24 hour period.  That's a 100 year storm or a storm that occurs once in a hundred years.    On July 23rd of this year, O'Hare recorded 6.91 inches.  That's just over a 50 year storm.  In the OP, we got 4.81 inches in 4 hours, a 50 year storm.   The response that some people have come up with is that given the fact that we've been affected by a 100 year storm and a 50 year storm and the third largest blizzard within a one-year period, perhaps the word "historic" no longer has the teeth that is used to.
Another reason for the lack of "reaction" is that people themselves may have become complacent with it all.  After getting bombarded two-years in a row, perhaps folks feel "beat" and aren't reacting in a big way.  Heck, there were really only a handful of people at the public meeting held in the OP this week and though the few that spoke were understandably and visibly annoyed, it was hardly the outpouring of anger and disgust that I would have assumed.  At the meeting, it seemed that the Village had a rough estimate of about 150 to 200 flooded homes.  From my experience, on my street alone, there are about twenty homes.  If you do quick math and multiply that by the same number as there are streets east of mine, in the OP, that comes to at least 400 homes.  In the northeast quadrant of the village, the worst-affected area, there are another 4 or 5 blocks north of mine.  I would not be shocked if most of these and many, many more were flooded.  If this is the case, then people really need to speak up. 

In the process of researching, I've come to realize how important those state and federal declarations of "Disaster Areas" actually are.  With these declarations, come the possibility of funds for cleanup and mitigation practices.  Unfortunately, no disaster has been declared in the wake of last week's storm.  Perhaps people's assumptions are correct and a 50 year storm is just not that big a deal.  I think people just haven't spoken up or been heard.  Our Village Clerk, on one local blog, noted how important this assessment effort is and what you can do to participate.  Hopefully many are filling out the proper forms and getting them back to the village because I believe this is an issue that is worthy of attention.    

With the absence of a disaster declaration, there seems to be no direct route to funding at the moment.   I still took the time to write a letter to our State Hazard Mitigation Officer, Ron Davis.  Hopefully he can help.  I am also trying to decipher the programs that stems from FEMA's Hazard Mitigation Grant Program on my own.  The hope is that I can get reimbursed for any extraordinary steps I may take at my home.  This will likely take the form of an overhead plumbing system for the Tiny Bungalow.  Given the complexity of those topics, I will be writing more about grants and the overhead plumbing separately.  Obviously, this is a subject that will probably consume me and this blog for the next several weeks, at least.  I'd love to hear how other folks have dealt with similar issues and hopefully others can learn from my experience.                  

1 comment:

sarah said...

Bummer. One of the projections of climate change is that we will (in some areas) get more frequent extreme events - so the "50 year"-type statistics will be blown out of the water. Hope you get some help with this!