The sunny skies that started melting the snow in earnest this week gave way to steady rain – and more melting – in Chicago Thursday morning, causing some flooding and raising commuters’ fears that they will later be confronted by submerged streets, sidewalks and basements.
“It flooded in front of my house up to my boot,” said Lisa Robertson, a 50-year-old computer operator, after she got off a train in Chicago from her home in the suburbs south of the city. “Last night we made sure nothing was on the floor of the basement.”
Others said they were taking precautions such as stacking belongings in their basements atop milk crates, while others merely hoped their basements would not be lakes when they arrived home.
Ruth Muscato, 66, said the streets near her home in suburban Oak Lawn were flooded but not impassable.
“But my husband had a doctor’s appointment and the doctor called him (and said), `I can’t get out of my house, I’m totally flooded,'” Muscato said after disembarking from a train in downtown Chicago.
Meanwhile, Thursday promised to be a gray, sloppy stew of rain, sleet and some snow – a far cry from Wednesday when the streets and parks were crowded with joggers, mothers pushing strollers, and people walking their dogs on what seemed like the first sunny, relatively warm day in months.
A whole new layer of snow and sleet was forecast to accumulate early Thursday, particularly across Wisconsin, northern Illinois and parts of Indiana, before temperatures rise and change the precipitation to rain, according to the National Weather Service. The warmer temperatures may be accompanied by fog and strong winds that could reach 50 miles per hour.
Ahead of Thursday’s rain, communities and private companies spent the day before clearing catch basins of debris and answering calls from worried homeowners and businesses to load up their snow so that it melts somewhere else.
“They’re calling me to say, `With this rain coming, where is that water and the snow going to go when it melts?'” said Jodey Schmiedekamp of Countryside Industries in suburban Chicago.
Officials in Will County, south of Chicago, prepared to siphon warm water from a nuclear power plant’s cooling pond into the Kankakee River in hopes of melting ice that can jam the channel and push floodwaters over the banks. Emergency management authorities warned people in low-lying areas to be ready to move to higher ground, even going door-to-door to ensure families were aware of the danger.
In Indiana, the weather service cautioned that melting snow piled as high as 18 inches wouldn’t be able to flow into rivers and streams because those channels are frozen. Between the snowmelt and the rain, some flooding would be unavoidable.
Parts of Michigan have had so much snow that authorities fret about more roof collapses like the one that injured two women Wednesday in the Grand Rapids area, which has received 101 inches of snow this season. Other collapses have been reported around the state since January.
And add this to the things to worry about: With temperatures expected to drop as low as 10 degrees on Sunday, and perhaps lower Monday, puddles along roads and sidewalks are expected to freeze.
The thaw may also reveal a struggle for survival that has played out all winter close to the frozen ground. As the ice and snow recedes around rivers, lakes and ponds, it could reveal dead fish, turtles, frogs, toads and crayfish that didn’t make it.