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Northwest Side Homeowners Clear Out Basements After Floods

 Items taken from one flooded basement in a Northwest Side home.
Items taken from one flooded basement in a Northwest Side home.
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DNAinfo/Justin Breen

CHICAGO — Homeowners ripped out ruined carpet and drenched drywall and threw away water-logged possessions Friday, a day after torrential rains flooded basements throughout the Northwest Side.

Like many, Tony Ranallo couldn't sleep during the early morning hours Thursday as more than 5 1/2 inches of rain fell on his Jefferson Park home near Foster and Natoma avenues.

"I knew it was going to be bad," Ranallo said. "And at about 3:45 a.m., water started pouring in from the shower drains."

At its highest, Ranallo's basement had a foot-and-a-half of water. After about 45 minutes, the water receded, leaving black silt in its wake. Cabinets, a couch, a dryer — with 3 inches of water in it — and a dining room table had all been ruined.

"At least it wasn't sewage," Ranallo said.

Ranallo, who has lived in Jefferson Park for 15 years, said the flooding caused about $10,000 worth of damage. His house also flooded in 2010 during a similar spring storm.

About 150 homeowners in the 45th Ward, which includes Jefferson Park, reported basement flooding, said Owen Brugh, an aide to Ald. John Arena. Most of the flooded homes were in the northwestern corner of the ward, with sporadic flooding throughout Portage Park and Gladstone Park, Brugh said.

"We've been pretty lucky," Brugh said, praising the city water department's response to calls to clear drains.

In a message to residents, Arena credited the city's Rainblocker technology with keeping the water from flooding basements by keeping it on the streets.

"Homes here used to flood pretty regularly, and they don't anymore," Brugh said.

The system installs a restrictor valve in the storm water catch basin in the street, which reduces the amount of water that can flow from the street to the main sewer line. That allows for the sewer system to catch up with the heavy flow of water, which could otherwise force contaminated water back through homeowners' private lines and into the home's lowest spot — the basement, according to the city.

Ald. Mary O'Connor's 41st Ward, which includes Edgebrook and Sauganash, was among the hardest hit, with more than 350 residents calling to report their basements had flooded, said Jason Hernandez, an aide to O'Connor.

O'Connor spent most of Thursday and Friday traveling through the ward keeping tabs on the clean up, Hernandez said.

"I was inspired to see neighbors helping one another to clear away debris and offer support in this time of need," O'Connor said in an email message to residents.

The rain turned the playground at Portage Park into a lake, and forced park officials to empty the indoor pool. Groh took a picture in the playground, pretending to use a canoe to travel through the flooded park.

"We were trying to make the best of a bad situation," Groh said. 

The fieldhouse's boxing room was flooded with 3 to 4 feet of water, but park district plumbers were able to pump it out right away and avoid any damage, Groh said.

"We are just re-starting our boxing program and I would have ben crushed if anything had happened to that room," Groh said. "We were very lucky."

Park officials also had to empty Portage Park's indoor pool because of dirty rain water that seeped through the walls, Groh said.

"We're taking this opportunity to give everything a good scrub," Groh said.

West of Portage Park, the downpours turned cemeteries throughout Dunning into lakes, Ald. Tim Cullerton (38th) said.

"It's a mess," Cullerton said, adding that most of the flooded basements in his ward were east of Naragansett Avenue between Irving Park Road and Addison Street.

The 3700 block of Pioneer Avenue, near Cumberland Avenue and Addison Street, was particularly hard hit, with so much water coming down the street that it seemed like a river, Cullerton said.

As they hauled water-logged carpet and furniture out of their basements, Cullerton said many were taking the damage in stride.

"Everyone keeps talking about what an extraordinary amount of water it was, and how flooding was inevitable," Cullerton said. "And then they say how glad they are that they aren't in Texas, and aren't in Boston. They are keeping it in perspective."