WBEZ | floods http://www.wbez.org/tags/floods Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en As Emanuel announces new flood control project, some say plans need to adapt for climate change http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-announces-new-flood-control-project-some-say-plans-need-adapt-climate-change-106791 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Flooding_130422_LW.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>As neighborhoods from Albany Park to South Shore work to wring out water-damaged possessions and clear up flood debris, Chicago area water managers say they&rsquo;re doing what they can to control flooding. But some also say climate change could make the task more difficult in the future.</p><p dir="ltr">Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced plans Sunday to construct a huge new tunnel at a cost of $45 to $55 million to help reduce flooding in the Albany Park area, which also experienced a serious flood in 2008. Speaking on the issue Monday, the mayor also noted that Albany Park has &ldquo;been affected by once-in-a-century flooding that happened twice in five years.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Donald Wuebbles, professor of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Illinois, has also noticed unusually frequent extremes in Chicago&rsquo;s weather.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The projections are that we will see even more precipitation coming as larger events in the future,&rdquo; Wuebbles said. He&rsquo;s been writing and speaking for years about the effects of climate change on weather, and<a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/news/local/chicago-tackles-climate-change"> for years has been warning Chicagoans about more frequent catastrophic storms</a> to come due to warming atmospheric temperatures.</p><p dir="ltr">David St. Pierre, Executive Director of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District says as far as he&rsquo;s concerned, that reality is already here.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We&rsquo;re seeing a lot more severe events than we saw ten years ago, five years ago,&rdquo; St. Pierre said.</p><p dir="ltr">He said tunnels like the one proposed by the city and the MWRD&rsquo;s Deep Tunnel project can address stormwater issues to a limited extent, but even the biggest tunnel will not be able to handle the new normal. St. Pierre thinks the region also needs to look at solutions that keep water completely out of an overwhelmed sewer system.</p><p dir="ltr">Take, for instance, <a href="https://soundcloud.com/wbez/green-solutions-to-overwhelmed">green infrastructure</a> proposals that have been around for a while. In 2003, then-Mayor Richard Daley&rsquo;s office released <a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/dam/city/depts/doe/general/NaturalResourcesAndWaterConservation_PDFs/Water/guideToStormwaterBMP.pdf">a document on best stormwater management practices</a> including green roofs and permeable pavement. But the issue is a regional one, and ideas that would make green infrastructure a requirement have been slower to take shape.</p><p dir="ltr">The City of Chicago&rsquo;s stormwater ordinance passed in 2007 regulates runoff from new developments and redevelopment projects above a certain size, suggesting on-site retention systems and permeable pavement among the management options. But its scope has been limited so far. And the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District drafted a Watershed Management Ordinance in 2009 that includes requirements for wetland protection and maintenance of permeable surfaces in new developments; it could come up for a vote this year. Meantime, the Chicago Department of Transportation is working on a draft of its own &ldquo;Sustainable Urban Infrastructure Guidelines&rdquo; that would mandate careful control of runoff in all new city infrastructure. Eventually, these ideas would form a patchwork of regulations to prevent flooding.</p><p dir="ltr">But none of these options retroactively require homes or businesses to control runoff into the city&rsquo;s sewers, a limitation that could become increasingly significant with each new season of huge storms. In the meantime, city officials are asking residents who want to join neighborhood-wide mitigation programs to look into its <a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/water/supp_info/basement_floodingpartnership.html">Basement Flooding Partnership</a>.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Correction: The audio version of this story incorrectly referred to Donald Wuebbles as John Wuebbles.</em></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F88459714" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Tue, 23 Apr 2013 08:45:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-announces-new-flood-control-project-some-say-plans-need-adapt-climate-change-106791 Soil moisture back to normal, now rain hampering Illinois farmers http://www.wbez.org/news/soil-moisture-back-normal-now-rain-hampering-illinois-farmers-106697 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Moisture_130417_LW.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>It&rsquo;s sprouting time across the state and farmers are breathing a sigh of relief as soil moisture in Illinois returns to normal after a year of uncertainty. Spring of 2012 was marked by arid, warm weather that led into one of the hottest summers on record and a drought that continued through the winter. Illinois farmers&rsquo; concerns about planting conditions for the spring planting season have scarcely subsided, but the forecast is better than it has been for a long time.</p><p>&ldquo;Right now, we are pretty much seeing normal levels across the state, which is a lot better than what we were seeing at this time last year,&rdquo; said Jennie Atkins of the Illinois State Water Survey, which monitors soil moisture daily. Above-average precipitation in January and February made up for a middling fall, and stormy weather this week can&rsquo;t hurt moisture, either.</p><p>&ldquo;After last year, soil moisture is a very precious commodity in the state,&rdquo; said John Hawkins of the Illinois Farm Bureau.</p><p>But there&rsquo;s also a downside to the influx of rain. There were flood warnings and severe storms in parts of Illinois Tuesday, and now many farmers have to wait for warmer, drier weather to plant.</p><p>&ldquo;When you have a lot of rain and flood it definitely affects the larger crop productions,&rdquo; said Toni Anderson, the organizer of Sacred Keepers Sustainability Garden in Chicago&rsquo;s Bronzeville neighborhood. &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t necessarily have to worry about that in the city because we need every drop we can get.&rdquo;</p><p>She says the sandy soil on Martin Luther King Avenue on Chicago&rsquo;s south side drains easily, and the garden&rsquo;s focus on native species means they can tolerate weather extremes. But given concerns about climate change, she&rsquo;s not necessarily jumping for joy about yet another swing of the weather pendulum.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s refreshing and scary all at the same time,&rdquo; Anderson said.&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 17 Apr 2013 15:19:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/soil-moisture-back-normal-now-rain-hampering-illinois-farmers-106697 Flooding in a drought year http://www.wbez.org/news/flooding-drought-year-106171 <p><p>After a <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/drought-could-lead-chicago-river-reverse-course-again-104414" target="_blank">frighteningly dry</a> summer, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/what-happens-if-water-lake-michigan-keeps-disappearing-104748" target="_blank">record-low lake levels</a> over the winter and a <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-shippers-breathe-sigh-relief-rock-removal-begins-mississippi-river-104488" target="_blank">near shut-down of the Mississippi river</a> due to low waters, it&rsquo;s flood season. This week there were flood warnings in Lake County to the north of Chicago and in parts of&nbsp; the Illinois River to the west, and numerous rivers and streams hit flood or near-flood levels near the Quad Cities, Cairo and St. Louis.</p><p>The sudden flooding may be hard to absorb, but it&rsquo;s a fact of living in a floodplain state. <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/what-would-chicago-look-if-settlers-hadn%E2%80%99t-changed-it-105902" target="_blank">Illinois&rsquo; low lands</a> and abundant rivers mean many parts of the state are liable to flood on a yearly basis, and the Chicago area&rsquo;s history is marked by almost countless <a href="http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/460.html" target="_blank">catastrophic floods</a>.</p><p>So, is anything special about <a href="http://thesouthern.com/news/local/a-bit-of-flooding-really-good-news/article_99028cea-9122-11e2-860c-001a4bcf887a.html" target="_blank">this year&rsquo;s flood warnings</a>? Well, yes and no.<iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F84135188" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>&ldquo;Typically, our flood season for the larger rivers is in the early spring,&rdquo; said Bill Morris, a hydrologist at the National Weather Service. But this year, he said, areas north of Chicago had a frost depth down to ten inches during the melt and precipitation. &ldquo;So when we had additional rainfall...that water basically hit a solid surface and just started running off into the streams.&rdquo;</p><p>Morris said the runoff has the added consequence of preventing much-needed water from absorbing into parched, drought-stricken soil. To make a deeper dent in the drought we&rsquo;ll need rain throughout the spring.</p><p>Flood or near-flood conditions have been even more widespread closer to St. Louis, but Mike Petersen of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers St. Louis District agrees that it&rsquo;s not unusual.</p><p>&ldquo;I think what&rsquo;s really alarming for folks is to see how quickly the river came up this year,&rdquo; Petersen said.</p><p>In one day in the St. Louis area he saw the Mississippi rise ten feet due to a combination of increased water from snow melt in the north, and precipitation in the watershed. But rain doesn&rsquo;t necessarily mean an end to drought.</p><p>&ldquo;I think we are relieved to have some water in the river, but...we may end up facing low water conditions seeing as we&rsquo;ve gone into this year with less water in the system than we started last year,&rdquo; Petersen said.</p><p><strong>Flood trouble</strong></p><p>Flooding in the greater Chicago area is a lot more complicated than what you might imagine when you hear about a flooded river; in that TV-ready scenario, the river overflows, and water creeps into streets and front yards.<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS7151_DSC_1622-scr.JPG" style="height: 208px; width: 310px; float: right;" title="Kathy Parker lives in Morgan Park on the far South Side. Her basement filled with sewer water twice in 2011. (WBEZ/Lewis Wallace)" /></p><p>But a lot of the flooding that strikes Chicago is flash flooding or sewer backups &ndash; the result of water filling up Chicago&rsquo;s notorious combined sewer system. Dramatic summertime floods afflicted multiple Chicago neighborhoods in recent summers when sudden rains overflowed the city&rsquo;s drainage system.</p><p>Beverly native Kathy Parker has lived in West Morgan Park&nbsp; on the far South Side for six years. In spring of 2011 her house flooded during a downpour, and her finished basement filled with several feet of sewer water. She cleaned for nearly two days straight, threw out a bunch of personal possessions, and thought she&rsquo;d seen the worst of it. A month later, her basement filled up again.</p><p>She described a situation that may be grossly familiar to many Chicagoans.</p><p>&ldquo;This time it was even worse, water just shooting like a fountain out of the drain, and everything imaginable and nasty in there,&rdquo; Parker said.</p><p>She lost her my parents&rsquo; wedding albums in the flood. Her block was lined with dumpsters where neighbors tossed carpets, flooring and personal items.</p><p>Darlene Crawford of Calumet Heights tells a similar story. She&rsquo;s lived on the Southeast Side for over 40 years with her family and has no desire to leave behind the house she bought shortly after marrying her husband.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s a close-knit community and most of us have lived here, raised our children and now our grandchildren,&rdquo; she said, &ldquo;and a lot of our kids have moved back into this area.&rdquo;</p><p>But not long after they moved into the house, their basement flooded for the first time. She says it has since flooded at least twenty times, not including instances of minor leaks.</p><p>&ldquo;We didn&rsquo;t know to ask, or to have a home inspection [before moving in],&rdquo; she said.</p><p>But it wasn&rsquo;t long before they realized, as Kathy Parker had, that the problem was community-wide.</p><p>&ldquo;We found out that our house wasn&rsquo;t the only house experiencing this type of problem. After a rain we would see the alleys just littered with household items,&rdquo; Crawford said.</p><p>Crawford eventually came together with her neighbors to demand help from the city and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD), but she says most of the solutions she and her neighbors have adopted are individual: flood insurance, remodeling, changing how they use their basements for storage and installing individual drainage systems for homes.</p><p><strong>&ldquo;Nobody does anything about it&rdquo;</strong></p><p><a href="http://quoteinvestigator.com/2010/04/23/everybody-talks-about-the-weather/" target="_blank">Someone once said</a> everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.</p><p>Not so in the metro Chicago area. Cities and counties have no choice but to act on flooding; the amount of water that melts or precipitates in sudden bursts in an average Chicago spring or summer is too much to ignore.</p><p>Chicago&rsquo;s faced with a problem related to the nature of its expansive and world-famous sewer system. The system, originally constructed in the 1800s, is what&rsquo;s known as a combined sewer system: raw sewage and rainwater drain into the same pipes. Once upon a time, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/john-r-schmidt/2012-01-02/january-2-1900-reversing-chicago-river-95172" target="_blank">that drainage headed to the lake</a>; now most of it goes through some treatment and separation, and gets deposited into waterways connected to the Illinois and Chicago Rivers. But during a storm, the whole system can become quickly overwhelmed, and when it overflows, the overflow (politely called a Combined Sewer Overflow or CSO by the MWRD) is a mix of rain water and raw sewage.</p><p>The MWRD has been working since the 1970s on what&rsquo;s called the &ldquo;Deep Tunnel&rdquo; project or TARP (Tunnel and Reservoir Plan) that involves constructing a humongous system of tunnels, some as wide as 33 feet, connected to reservoirs designed to store overflow water. The 109 miles of underground tunnels are complete, but the last of the reservoirs won&rsquo;t be complete until 2029. MWRD says the construction of the TARP has reduced the numbers of days with combined sewer overflows from 100 per year to 50 per year on average.</p><p>But Chicago floods may also be addressed by community-based and development solutions.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s a collective problem, rather than just an individual property problem,&rdquo; said Harriet Festing, director of the water program at the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT).</p><p>CNT is researching the prevalence and cost of flooding in the Chicago area by gathering insurance claim data and <a href="http://www.cnt.org/water/" target="_blank">personal stories about flooding experiences</a>.</p><p>&ldquo;Forty-two percent of Cook County is impervious...that&rsquo;s our parking lots, our streets, our sidewalks. And that&rsquo;s just volumes of rain running off those areas and into our backyards and our basements,&rdquo; Festing said.</p><p>As long as that volume of runoff has nowhere to go, using personal funds to build a more waterproof basement or better drainage in your own backyard is tantamount to swimming upstream in the Calumet River (and <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-area-waterways-slated-clean-105467" target="_blank">you don&rsquo;t want to do that</a>).</p><p>According to Festing, development that takes water runoff into account can go a long way in preventing increased flood risk in urban areas; rain barrels, rain gardens and small-scale projects in individual homes can also make a difference if they&rsquo;re installed across an entire neighborhood.</p><p>MWRD has been taking public comments on a proposed watershed management ordinance since 2009, and plans to release a complete draft this spring. If passed, the ordinance would authorize a more proactive district-wide approach to new development that would better absorb storm water and protect people from flooding.</p><p>Not flooded out yet? WBEZ&rsquo;s Chris Bentley has more on the <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-03/climate-change-could-worsen-chicago-floods-106174" target="_blank">links between flooding and climate change</a>.</p><p>And you can get tips from <a href="http://www.floodsmart.gov/floodsmart/" target="_blank">the federal government</a> and from the <a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/water/supp_info/basement_floodingpartnership.html" target="_blank">City of Chicago</a> on how to deal with flooding in your area.&nbsp;</p><p>Follow <a href="https://twitter.com/LewisPants" target="_blank">Lewis Wallace on Twitter</a>.</p></p> Tue, 19 Mar 2013 17:15:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/flooding-drought-year-106171 A year later, many of Pakistan’s poorest flood victims refuse to return home http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-07-13/year-later-many-pakistan%E2%80%99s-poorest-flood-victims-refuse-return-home-8909 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-July/2011-07-13/Pakistan_Flood1.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>One year after massive floods engulfed Pakistan and displaced 10 million people, many <em>haris</em>, or sharecroppers, face a difficult decision. Do they return home, where huge debts and impatient <em>zamindars</em>, or landlords, await? Or do they default on their debts and remain in refugee camps, where living conditions are miserable and aid agencies are packing up?</p><p><a href="http://www.christianparenti.com" target="_blank">Christian Parenti</a>, whose article <a href="http://www.thenation.com/article/161733/pakistan-one-year-after-floods" target="_blank">"Pakistan One Year After the Floods"</a> appears in the latest edition of <em>The Nation</em> magazine, joins us to discuss the collision between natural disaster and social inequality in Pakistan.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><em>For more on the environmental impact in our own region, check out “<a href="http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter/2011-07-13/climate-change-hits-mightiest-great-lakes-89058">Climate Change and the Great Lakes</a>,” the latest installment of <a href="http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter">Front and Center</a>, WBEZ’s special series examining critical issues in the Great Lakes region.</em></p></p> Wed, 13 Jul 2011 16:02:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-07-13/year-later-many-pakistan%E2%80%99s-poorest-flood-victims-refuse-return-home-8909 Government officials question how Lake Michigan affects Lake Shore Drive http://www.wbez.org/story/chicago/government-officials-question-how-lake-michigan-affects-lake-shore-drive <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/108759823_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>There is a new focus on the safety of Lake Shore Drive and how Lake Michigan affects it after last week's blizzard. Hundreds of drivers got stuck in the snow there and eventually had to abandon their vehicles.</p><p>Illinois U.S. Senators Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk are calling on federal agencies to look at the safety of Lake Shore Drive given its location next to Lake Michigan. Things like: How do waves affect it? Is it more susceptible to flooding?</p><p>Chicago Mayor Richard Daley said last week the winds are a major concern.</p><p>&quot;We need barriers out in the lake to prevent the Northwest winds coming in,&quot;&nbsp;he said.</p><p>Joel Brammeier, the head of the Alliance for the Great Lakes, said the government has been working for decades on building barriers along the lakefront to cut down on flooding, but more needs to be done.</p><p>&quot;Instead of just building concrete walls, we can be thinking about how to regenerate the Lake Michigan shoreline so it gives something back to the Great Lakes,&quot; Brammeier said.</p><p>He said he's concerned about decreasing water levels in the lake.<br /><br />&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 08 Feb 2011 11:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/chicago/government-officials-question-how-lake-michigan-affects-lake-shore-drive BBC Documentary: Anger in Punjab province growing since floods http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/bbc-documentary-anger-punjab-province-growing-floods <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/103999061.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>More than six million people in Pakistan now face the start of winter without adequate shelter because their homes were destroyed in August's devastating floods.</p><p>Many Pakistanis are increasingly angry and accuse the government of failing to help them. They also claim that official corruption played a major part in the flood damage itself.</p><p>The BBC&rsquo;s Jill McGivering, who reported on the floods last August, went back to Pakistan to investigate the allegations.</p><p><em>This documentary was provided by the </em><a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00bzpym">BBC World Service</a><em>. </em><br />&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 29 Nov 2010 16:47:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/bbc-documentary-anger-punjab-province-growing-floods Skin disease in post-flood Pakistan http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/skin-disease-post-flood-pakistan <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/103696578.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>In Pakistan, skin disease has developed into one of the top three medical conditions experienced by those affected by August's massive floods.</p><p>Dr. Aisha Sethi is a professor of dermatology at the University of Chicago Medical Center. Her interests in tropical dermatology, immigrant minority and refugee populations and global skin infectious diseases have led her to field work in Pakistan, Malawi and Tanzania.</p><p>Dr. Sethi spent a few weeks in Pakistan after the devastating floods.&nbsp;She tells us about what she saw and her work with albinos in Malawi.</p></p> Mon, 29 Nov 2010 16:39:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/skin-disease-post-flood-pakistan