Lessons learned during the flood of 2008 are translating into advanced preparation for the arrival this weekend of rain from the remnants of Hurricane Isaac.
All the communities located along the Little Calumet River sent emergency response and public works personnel to a planning meeting Thursday at the Highland Central Fire Station.
Dan Repay, executive director of the Little Calumet River Basin Development Commission, and two engineers from the Chicago District office of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, took part in the discussion.
“This group has been meeting every month for 2-1/2 years going through various scenarios to be prepared. We decided to move the next meeting up a couple of weeks because of this situation,” Repay said.
This time, the planning is for real.
Representatives from Hammond, Gary, Lake Station, Griffith, Highland and Munster discussed how their communities are preparing now for the effects of a low pressure system from the west colliding with the remnants of slow-moving Isaac over Northwest Indiana.
Those preparations include filling sandbags and moving them into place before Isaac arrives.
More sandbags and a sandbag-filling machine provided by the Army Corps of Engineers will arrive today from Rensselaer, and a contractor will clear blockages from the river.
Tracking Issac’s path is difficult because it’s a slow moving system and unpredictable, said William Morris, a meteorologist with the federal National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Morris participated in Thursday’s meeting via conference call.
However, forecast models show the storm will move northeast from central Illinois into northern Indiana, and its center is expected to track south of the Little Calumet River over Lafayette, he said.
That would impact the Kankakee River watershed with up to five inches of rain compared with one-half to 1-1/2 inches of precipitation in the northern portion of Lake County, Morris said.
“At daybreak Saturday there may be some sprinkles from the low pressure system coming from the west. By Saturday afternoon, areas from Interstate 80 south will see rain. There is a chance of embedded thunderstorms with locally heavy rains and some microbursts,” he said. “The worst case scenario if the storm tracks more north would be 1 to 3 inches of rain.”
It is expected to rain all day Sunday, Morris said. This means the rain will fall over a long period of time, and that reduces the chance of major flooding. Low-lying areas may encounter flash floods and standing water.
If this model holds true, the heavy rain and any possible flooding would occur from St. John south, including south of Will County in Illinois, Morris said.
Jody Melton, executive director of the Kankakee River Basin Commission, said no special preparations are being made for this weekend’s rain.
Levees along the Kankakee River are expected to hold back major flooding, although localized flooding is usual when river levels rise, he said.
“The river is low and the ditches are low. It’s been dry, which helps. There should be some capacity (to hold the rain water),” Melton said.
“I think we will welcome this rain rather than regret it,” he said, referring to the drought that has affected most of Indiana.