Why Are Floods in Chicagoland Getting Worse?

Author: Diana Rodriguez-Zaba
Last Updated on

You never get used to it. Dealing with Chicago flooding year after year doesn’t make it any easier. All across the city, homeowners are frustrated by recurring floodwater damage in their basements.

Any type of flooding in Illinois can cause serious problems, but it always seems worse here in Chicago. It fills basements with sewage backup, ruins everything downstairs and leaves behind that unmistakable stench.

Flooding in Chicagoland: Why Residents are Furious

When you think about the natural disasters that hit our part of the state, flooding in Chicago usually comes to mind first.

It continues to impact homes and businesses all across the city and suburbs.

Residents are furious.

The rising costs of past and recent floods affect us on an individual basis, and it adds to our burden as taxpayers too.

Between 2001 and 2014, flooding cost Cook County $1.8 billion in subsidized grants, loans and insurance payments.

These are just a few of the devastating flood events that hit Chicago over the past two years.

• September 27, 2019: Torrential rains caused widespread flooding and more than 1,000 flight cancellations.

• May, 2019: Heavy Chicago storms caused flooding inside the Loop and swamped the Riverwalk.

August 7, 2018: Severe flash floods soaked homes across western and northern Chicago.

• June, 2018: Dangerous thunderstorms flooded homes and streets and postponed a Cubs game.

• May 30, 2018: Remnants of Hurricane Alberto caused serious flooding problems across western Chicago.

October 14, 2017: The city was inundated with its heaviest October rainfall on record.

• March 30, 2017: Torrential rains marked the wettest March day in Chicago since 1948.

Why Our Chicago Basements Flood

If your home was affected by recent flooding, you probably had to deal with a basement full of floodwater and sewage backup.

This happens because the city’s drainage system has to handle both raw sewage and storm runoff through the same network. Parts of the infrastructure are almost 100 years old.

Image Source: Wikipedia

Our location is a big factor in basement flooding too. The region was originally covered by wetlands. As the city grew, its natural draining mechanisms began to disappear.

Impervious cover like streets and parking lots don’t absorb rainfall. Regular Chicago area flooding is the direct result of downpours that overload the city’s aging drainage system.

What the City Is Doing About Flooding

The city is addressing Chicago flooding today with a construction project that started back in the 1970s.

The Deep Tunnel is a massive network of underground pipes and reservoirs, and it’s still a work in progress. Construction is expected to wrap up by 2029.

Over the past 12 years, the $3.8 billion project has replaced 145 miles of aging sewer mains. An additional 350 miles of old pipe have been relined. Overall, the results have been disappointing. For example, February storms in 2018 overwhelmed the system and flooded more than 500 basements across the city.

How Climate Change Could Affect Chicago’s Future

Statewide, Illinois flooding can be tied to changes in our climate. Floods in Chicago are expected to happen more frequently based on long-term forecasting that indicates historic rains.

As our winters and springs become wetter, we see the effects of climate change on our lakefronts. Several times, Lake Michigan has crested to its highest levels in more than 30 years.

Some of our Chicago beaches have been closed due to high water while others have been completely swallowed up.

How You Can Prepare for the Next Deluge

No one can stop storm flooding in Chicago, but you can take steps to minimize water damage in the basement. These simple tips can make a big difference.

flooded basement
  • Start by rearranging your storage strategies downstairs.
  • Repair basement floor and wall cracks with an epoxy injection kit from the hardware store.
  • Routinely check and clear floor drains including any located at the bottom of basement steps and windows.
  • Work up a regular maintenance routine for your sump pump, and consider installing a battery backup.
  • Keep gutters and downspouts clean, and make sure rainfall is directed well away from the house.
  • Don’t ignore drainage problems in the yard especially around your home’s foundation.

When You Need Help After a Flood

Let’s add one more important tip to your prep list. Be sure to keep our number handy. We’re ready to roll 24/7 with flood damage restoration services developed specifically for Chicago basements.

servicemaster water damage truck chicago

From pumping out floodwater to cleaning up sewage backups, we take care of everything.

When you need help in the basement after a flood, you can count on ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba. We’re always just a phone call away at 773-647-1985.