Understanding and Minimizing Flooding

While spring brings better weather, it also increases the chances of a flooding event.  The Village has been fortunate to avoid a severe flooding event in the past few years and has taken steps to minimize any potential damage done if one should occur including improving the stormwater sewer system.  However, the assistance of residents is vital in efforts to prevent and control any flooding.  Below is some information that helps explain why floods occur and how you can assist:

Why do floods occur?

Floods are the result of either a localized drainage problem or river flooding.  Localized problems can have numerous sources including clogged stormwater sewers.  River flooding, however, usually stems from a weather event such as a severe storm over a large portion of the river’s watershed or snow melt off.  Of the two types, river flooding tends to be more hazardous, especially in the river’s associated floodplains or Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHAs).  The Des Plaines River is the primary river flooding hazard in the Village.

Why does the Des Plaines River flood?

The watershed for the Des Plaines River begins in Union Grove, WI and covers a 224 square mile area north of IL Rt. 21.  A massive weather event heavily impacting this entire area is generally the cause of the river’s flooding.

What does the Village do to minimize flooding?

The Village takes several steps to minimize the chance of an event.  First, the Village works to enforce codes that help minimize flooding such as bans on the dumping of debris and yard waste.  Second, the Village requires Watershed Development Permits for any sort of development in the SFHA including excavations or fences.  Finally, the Village actively works against flooding by maintaining the stormwater sewer systems and responding to a flood event to prevent loss of property or life.

How can I protect myself?

Flood insurance is an excellent way to protect your property from flooding hazards.  Most homeowner’s insurance policies do not cover damage from floods, so you may need to check with your insurance agent to receive coverage.  You can also minimize damage to your property by being prepared in advance.  Elevate valuables and appliances off the ground.  A temporary measure might even be to move furniture to higher levels of your home and to sandbag your entrances.

In the event of a flood, it is important to distance yourself from the flooded area.  Do not drive or walk through a flooded area.  A foot of water is enough to float many vehicles.  Two feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles including sports utility vehicles and pick-up trucks.

How can I help?

As simple as it may sound, the best possible way to help prevent localized flooding is to help keep sewers, ditches and streams free of debris so that they have full capacity to handle flood water.  Report illegal dumping of debris immediately to the Gurnee Police Department at 847-599-7000.  Violators may be subject to fines.  If you see debris already in a waterway, report it to the Gurnee Public Works Department at 847-599-6800 so that it may be cleaned up.  Finally, if you witness any illegal development activity in the SFHA, report it to the Village at 847-599-7550.

Are there any resources that the Village has that I can use?

Yes.  The Village’s Engineering Division has professional staff available to assist property owners with drainage or flooding problems, flood map interpretation, flood insurance requirements and building protection guidance.  The Village maintains copies of the Federal Insurance Rate Maps and Elevation Certificates for individual properties.  Also, the Village has historical records about flooding events since the 1986 flood that are available for public viewing.  For any questions, contact the Engineering Division at 847-599-7550.