Superintendent Dave Ryan is calling it a “perfect storm.”
Begin with the
rapid melt late last week of the 15 to 20 inches of snow on the ground.
Add to that the
fact that--the recent mild temperatures notwithstanding--the ground remains
frozen and about as absorbent as concrete.
Then dump more than
four inches of rain on Duneland in fewer than 36 hours, and the result is a
foregone conclusion: widespread flooding, on a scale not seen since the
Great Flood of September 2008, when 12 inches of rain deluged Duneland over
recorded at the Chesterton wastewater treatment plant, from late Monday
through early Wednesday: 4.25 inches. That compares--according to the
National Weather Service--to 1.71 inches in Rockford, Ill.; 2.68 inches at
Chicago-O’Hare; 5.31 inches in Valparaiso; and 6.50 inches in Wheatfield.
The impact on
Superintendent Ryan’s bailiwick--the wastewater treatment plant--was a
predictable one: the 1.2-million gallon storage basin quickly filled to
capacity and on Tuesday afternoon the plant began bypassing wastewater into
the Little Calumet River. As of Wednesday afternoon some 5 million gallons
had been bypassed.
across town lift stations went on high alert as their wet wells began
filling, forcing the Utility and the Street Department to field a pair of
vacuum trucks to keep the stations from flooding. “The crews’ dedication has
resulted in us being able to manage the system well enough, with no calls
for sewer backup from our customers, which has been our goal throughout the
event,” Ryan told the Chesterton Tribune late on Wednesday.
“Manhandling a vac hose over the top of a 20’ to 40’ deep wet well can be
hazardous, but even more so after continuous hours of work.”
The 4.25 inches of
rain on top of the snow melt was mischievous enough but the real culprit in
the flooding may have been the condition of the ground, Street Commissioner
John Schnadenberg said. “In the summer the ground is soft and even a heavy
rain soaks in pretty fast. But there’s nowhere for the rain to go when the
ground is hard.”
Once the rain began
falling heavily, at 11 p.m. Tuesday, the Pope O’Connor Ditch filled rapidly.
That ditch runs a northeasterly course from a point south of Chesterton High
and the detention ponds served by it had to send their water somewhere. In
the case of the Tanglewood subdivision, that meant onto Windridge Drive.
detention pond couldn’t drain fast enough into Pope O’Connor because Pope
O’Connor was full itself,” Schnadenberg said. “And Windridge tends to act as
a secondary detention area because it’s at the lowest point in the
subdivision. Water always seeks the lowest level.”
A Street Department
pump went to work on Windridge Drive on Tuesday afternoon and kept at it
until 6 p.m., then went back into service at 3:30 a.m. Wednesday after
Schnadenberg received a report of a flooding threat to a walk-in basement.
As of this morning Windridge Drive was still being pumped.
But that wasn’t the
only problem at Tanglewood. The detention pond just west of the Boys and
Girls Club along 1100N also filled, Schnadenberg added, sending water into
the rear yards of several Tanglewood homes backing onto the pond. “We had to
pump those yards out into the high school’s separate drainage system to keep
those houses from flooding,” he said.
“We haven’t pumped
this much since the big rain in 2008,” Schnadenberg noted. “That’s the last
time we’ve had a flooding issue this severe.”
At various times on
Wednesday 1100N flooded over near the Rosehill Estates subdivision--“I
haven’t seen that in many years,” Schnadenberg said--as well as east of
South Fifth Street.
crested too over South 11th Street near the back entrance to Westchester
And one of the
other usual suspects--Gladys Lane in the Westchester South subdivision--was
also submerged for some time before the waters there receded.
On the other hand,
the lowest point in the entire Town of Chesterton--the alley behind Val’s
Pizzeria--did not flood, which Schnadenberg attributed to the installation
several years ago of a stormwater lift station. That station--along with a
second installed in an alley off 11th Street just north of West Porter
Ave.--performed just as they were designed to do.
“Over the last 30
years I’ve seen dramatic changes in the town’s stormwater system,”
Schnadenberg said. “We would have had a catastrophic problem if the town
hadn’t done all the stormwater improvements it’s done. There were isolated
issues on Tuesday and Wednesday, no question about that, but nothing like
would have happened if the town hadn’t invested in stormwater
infrastructure. That was money well spent.”
The Chesterton Fire
Department responded twice during the rain to reports of occupied vehicles
stranded on flooded roadways and filling with water.
The first: at 12
p.m. Tuesday, in Boone Grove. The second: at 7 p.m. Tuesday, in the area of
U.S. Highway 20 and Harrison Road.
In both cases the
CFD was disregarded before firefighters arrived at the scene.