Heavy rain overwhelms the region

2008-09-13T00:00:00Z Heavy rain overwhelms the regionTimes Staff nwitimes.com
September 13, 2008 12:00 am  • 

Storms continued to deluge the region Saturday, flooding residents' homes and forcing traffic to evade drenched streets.

(Watch the Little Calumet flood levels)

Northern Lake and Porter counties and the north metro Chicago area were hit hardest by the constant rainfall, said meteorologist Nathan Marsili, of the National Weather Service.

Another 3 to 5 inches are expected to fall this weekend, he said.

Marsili said he anticipates more flooding Sunday as the heavy rain continues.

Power outages were scattered across Lake and Porter counties, and most power had been restored by 5 p.m., NIPSCO spokesman Larry Graham said.

No more than 2,500 customers were without power at any time, he said.

Valparaiso experienced what appears to be a record amount of rainfall, Mayor Jon Costas said.

Costas toured the Hawthorn subdivision, where he described the water running through the backyard as, "like a rapids," at one point. By early afternoon, the water had receded about 5 feet but still was like a waterfall, he said.

North Township Trustee Frank Mrvan was out Saturday morning observing the flooding at Wicker Park in Highland, across the Little Calumet River from the Cabela's property. He said about 75 percent of the Wicker Park golf course was flooded Saturday morning.

Saturday's flooding was yet another blow to Wicker Park, which lost more than 100 trees to the Aug. 4 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.

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 Saturday. "We're getting the word out now as a public service."

Interstate 94 was closed to traffic between U.S. 421 and Ind. 49 -- between Chesterton and Michigan City because of high water. As of 5:30 p.m. Saturday, it remains closed.

A spokesman for the Indiana State Police said water was up to the top of the median wall. The high water caused 15 to 20 accidents, all of them apparently minor, from vehicles hitting the water and spinning out.

In Lake County, heavy rains caused flooding on Taft Street in Merrillville between 93rd Avenue and U.S. 30. There also was flooding on U.S. 231 between Greenwood and 113th avenues.

In Hammond, standing water forced closures of 165th Street, between Columbia Avenue and Indianapolis Boulevard, and the intersection of 129th Street and Sheffield Avenue near Robertsdale.

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

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