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Flooding raises concerns for New Lenox residents near Hickory Creek

Rain, road closings and flooding last week impacted a number of people in suburban communities, including some residents of New of Lenox.

Hickory Creek is among the waterways that flooded, leaving entire streets under water.

Emily Mance lives in the 200 block of Oak Street, and her house backs up to Hickory Creek.

“On both ends of the street, it’s full of water,” she said in a Feb. 21 interview. “There’s no way to get out.”

Mance recalled going to bed around 10:30 p.m. Feb. 19 and said the rain didn’t bring reason to have concern.

At approximately 2 a.m. the next day, however, Mance woke up to the sound of one of her neighbors ringing the doorbell.

“It was bad,” she said of the flooding. “I had Monday off. I woke up, and it was gloomy. I had no idea we’d get that much rain. We had had so much snow that the ground was frozen. So, that didn’t help. On a summer day, the ground would absorb the rain.”

Mance’s house was one of four homes primarily impacted by the flooding. Mance had to move the vehicles on her property to another location due to the flooding. She said she hadn’t noted any damage to her home.

“The water was a foot from getting inside the house,” Mance said. “Tons of water got into the garage. The back patio and landscaping were ruined.”

Her home, like her neighbors, is located in a regulatory floodway, meaning that adjacent land areas must remain free of structures to enable the creek to discharge of water, without increasing the height of the surface level, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. There are no drains along Oak Street, and the homes rely on ditches and culverts.

Public Works Director Brian Williams said even if something else were constructed, the water would still move toward Hickory Creek.

When Mance bought the house, she was required to purchase flood insurance.

“We’ve just moved in,” she said. “We’ve been here two months.”

Mance and her neighbors had taken to a Facebook page to create a line of communication. Mance said it was there that she and her neighbors talked of evacuating and waiting it out.

“We’re staying with our parents in Mokena,” she said. “We literally can’t get in and out.”

The area in question has had its share of challenges over the years.

Hickory Creek is part of the Hickory Creek Watershed. Flowing into it are Spring Creek, Marley Creek, Union Ditch and Frankfort Tributary.

A plan was formulated in June 2011 after studying the watershed. Nine municipalities have spearheaded the effort, as well as other several other entities.

“We were prepared,” Williams said of the flooding. “We anticipated some issues, especially with the frozen ground. Oak Street has been having ongoing issues. A few of those homes were built on a regulatory floodway.”

The roads impacted by the flooding reopened Feb. 22.

“It was probably 20 man-hours worth of work,” Street Superintendent Sean Vandenbergh said.

Staff members were busy making sure storm sewers remained clear, putting up signage and handling other matters of business.

“We were just monitoring the area,” Williams said. “There was water on the pavement at Nelson Road, Illinois Highway and Oak Street. We were closing roads and putting up water on pavement and road closed signs.”

Village Administrator Kurt Carroll said effort was put in to make sure that people were safe.

“We try to facilitate that,” he said. “Most had found safe places to be.”

Mance expressed appreciation for the Village’s response to the situation for giving her hope that the flooding would recede.

“[Mayor Tim Baldermann] is a great guy,” she said. “He’s been in contact with us. I thought it meant a lot to know he came out there.”

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