HAMMOND | Police and fire crews were out Saturday morning alerting residents of Hammond's Schleicher neighborhood -- north of the Little Calumet River from Northcote Avenue westward -- to be prepared should the river's banks overflow at the Northcote bridge.
"We're not telling them to evacuate, but if it does flood, we want them to elevate their belongings," Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. said. "We're getting the word out now as a public service."
According to National Weather Service data, the river's level at the Munster-Hammond border increased from 6.5 feet at midnight to more than 14 feet by 9 a.m. Saturday. Flood stage is 12 feet. The NWS was forecasting the river could reach as high as 16 feet by 1 a.m. Sunday.
"We're at flood stage now," McDermott said Saturday morning. "In fact, we're right about where we were last year when the levee failed."
On Aug. 25, 2007, when a 60-foot section of the Little Calumet River levee broke, flooding much of the Cabela's store property and adjacent Indianapolis Boulevard (U.S. 41), the river reached 14.88 feet.
"This year, that's not going to happen, because the levee's been reinforced," said Police Chief Brian Miller, who was surveying the situation along Northcote Avenue on Saturday morning with McDermott and City Council President Dan Repay.
Miller was thankful the rain in Hammond was letting up at about 9 a.m., as heavier rains continued moving through Chicago to the north. Between 3-5 inches of rain had fallen in the previous 24 hours through most of Northwest Indiana.
"Hopefully this break will allow the river's level to go down a little and let the storm sewers catch up," Miller said.
Miller was looking for any break in the weather, because rain is forecast on-and-off through Sunday and the uncertainty remains of how the remnants of Hurricane Ike might affect the region in the coming days.
Also hopeful for a break in the rain is North Township Trustee Frank Mrvan, who was out Saturday morning observing the flooding at Wicker Park in Highland, across the Little Cal from the Cabela's property. Mrvan said about 75 percent of the Wicker Park golf course was flooded Saturday morning.
"We've taken in about 3 feet of water in the back end of the park, closest to the river," Mrvan said. "Mother Nature proved once again that she's tougher than everyone else."
Saturday's flooding was yet another blow to Wicker Park, which lost more than 100 trees to the early-August tornado that devastated parts of Griffith and clobbered other areas along the Little Cal corridor.
"All those logs from the trees we cleared off the course will be floating off now," Mrvan said. "This is another sign that we must have that (Little Calumet River Basin federal levee) project completed as quickly as possible. It's not funny any more."
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is constructing a 22-mile levee system from the east side of Gary to the Illinois line.