Is Chicago doing its best to gear itself against storms and floods?

If you want to visit Bob Schleder in his home at Alsip in Chicago, you may bring in your boat or hip waders. Bob, who is a multiple sclerosis patient, is literally a prisoner at his own home, confined to a wheel chair. He can’t even cross the roadway to get to his mailbox. The insistent rains and flooding in Chicago in the past week have just added to his woes.

The street that is in front of Bob’s house always gets flooded whenever there is heavy rain and this week which experienced one of the heaviest downpours has made things difficult for him. There is no puddle here, but a 100 foot long pond that conceals the parkway, covers the entire road including the treacherous potholes. There are no sewers and drains in this area of Mather Avenue, which means the area remains flooded for days on end. Schleder said that the mosquito infested area, witnesses ducks flying in and making the stagnant water their home in such times.

Things were not the same when he had first moved into the house 21 years ago. But after new houses and driveways were constructed making the runoff go down the street and the area around his home became a reservoir for water to be collected. Bob had made numerous requests to the city mayor and the city administration but in vain. The last reply he has got is that the problem is not only an expensive one but it would also need an entire reconstruction of the street. One also has come to know that the solution is in the form of installing a sewer system on the Mather Avenue, which would require a funding of $500,000, something that Alsip does not have.
This is not just the plight of Bob Schleder, although his hardship cannot be overlooked. There are many who have been affected to a large measure from the Chicago floods that have been ravaging the area since June 9. Dozens of people have been rendered homeless. Whenever there is flooding, the casualty or even the destruction of property has a lot to do with city or town management and drainage facility. For Alsip, it has been no good. The fire chief in the area said that the top part of a three story building has been struck, resulting in fire. People at this point in time are relocating and the American Red Cross has been working with people to arrange for food and accommodation.

On a larger perspective, Chicago has been bracing for the floods that have already made their presence, ending the heat wave that had been at its severest point since 1933. There is going to be a public meeting in Chicago to decide how people will be able to cope with possible floods and tornadoes in the area, this Wednesday. The topics to be talked about will be about how information should be disseminated from emergency response agencies and weather experts and how people can prepare and co-ordinate during extreme weather. The Wednesday’s 2 hour free event begins at noon at the Chicago Cultural Center. The event will be sponsored by Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications, the National Weather Service, the Federal Emergency Management Agency officials and local television meteorologists. One wishes that the plight of Alsip is also given its due importance.