ALBANY PARK — As more than two-and-a-half inches of rain fell on Chicago Monday, nervous North Siders in Albany Park and North Park kept one eye on the Blackhawks game and the other on the Chicago River.
The river has busted its banks three times since 2008, reaching a record 8.85 feet in April 2013, nearly two feet over flood stage.
Measuring three-and-a-half feet at noon Monday, the river rose steadily throughout the afternoon, prompting Albany Park Neighbors to post an alert to Facebook in the early evening: "Pay close attention to rising water levels tonight. Just in the last two hours, the North Branch near Albany has jumped almost a foot."
One resident urged neighbors to limit use of appliances like washing machines, noting that "Chicago has a combined sewer system, which means that the water you use in your home goes to the same place as the storm water runoff."
Patty Wetli says we were lucky the rain stopped when it did:
The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District reported that its deep tunnel system, capable of holding 2.3 billion gallons of water, was full and gates at Wilmette Lock and Chicago River Controlling Works were opened to Lake Michigan at 6:40 p.m.
Ald. Deb Mell (33rd) drove her ward's streets Monday evening and posted a photo to Twitter snapped at Bernard Street and the North Branch. "Looking high but neighbors not worried."
Bernard St and the North branch, looking high but neighbors not worried. pic.twitter.com/ds9MACsv9O— Deb Mell (@debmell) June 16, 2015
The river eventually topped out at 5.8 feet at 8 p.m., above "action stage" at five feet but just below six feet, which is when Eugene Field Park begins to flood. At about that time, water could be seen flowing across Foster Avenue between the park and Bohemian National Cemetery but traffic was still moving at a normal clip.
Tuesday morning, the river was still above five feet and the discharge level of the North Branch into the North Shore Channel was a whopping 1,260 cubic feet of water per second, 10 times the flow recorded on Saturday.
The river is enough cause for concern that a $50 million diversion tunnel is in the works. Construction is expected to begin by the end of summer but won't be completed until 2017.
[Chicago River discharge, North Branch into North Shore Channel.]
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