West Side Ald. Emma Mitts (37th) can relate to the helplessness her constituents are undergoing now.

West Side Ald. Emma Mitts (37th) can relate to the helplessness her constituents are undergoing now.

She was among the hundreds of residents in the ward whose home suffered extensive flood damage as a result of record rainstorms that dropped several inches of rain throughout the city last month.

“I just had remodeled my basement,” said Mitts about the estimated $10,000 in water damage to her home in the Austin community following the July 23 storm. “It was frightening and scary.”

Some 600 homes and properties in the ward were affected by the heavy rains, she said.

As a result, many frustrated ward dwellers have been inquiring about what measures they can take in order to receive assistance from local and even federal officials.

While Mitts doesn’t know how much funding needs to be secured, that didn’t stop her from recently hosting a town hall meeting with representatives from the city’s water management agencies to discuss residents’ concerns.

“We had to make it known to the city,” she said. “My job is to look out for the community. That’s why they elected me. To work on their behalf.”

Before residents can get help, Federal Emergency Management Agency personnel need to survey the area and then submit findings to Gov. Pat Quinn. Then it has to be determined if it is a disaster area for flood assistance to be released by President Barack Obama.

However, that appears unlikely.

The thunderstorms that hit Chicago this past weekend did not result in the level of response or subsequent damage required for local, state or federal officials to move forward with the disaster declaration process, said Office of Emergency Management and Communications spokesman Roderick Drew.

In the meantime, residents have been encouraged to complete flood assessment forms.

However, residents like Austin resident Renald Carter, who said his property was saddled with $12,000 in damages from more than the foot of water that settled in his basement, want the government agencies to know they need help.

“Who is liable when something like this happens?” asked Carter, who received compensation from FEMA last year when floodwaters infiltrated his property. “You don’t know who is liable. It seems like everyone is blaming someone else.”

Tom LaPorte, spokesman for the Water Management Department said the recent spike in flooding can be pinned to global warming, which brings a more frequent onslaught of severe storms and heavy rains.

“These are new kinds of storms as a result of global warming and climate change,” LaPorte said. “They are unpredictable where they might appear. You could have two to three inches of rain in one part of the city, and moderate rain elsewhere.”

LaPorte said it would difficult for the city’s sewer system to handle seven or eight inches of rain at one time, as was the case July 23.

In order to prevent future basement flooding, LaPorte said the city has installed rain-blockers to slow down the stream of water pouring into the sewer system. Homeowners are also urged to detach their downspout from the sewer that will divert water away from the basement.

“People in the neighborhood have to work together,” he said.

Copyright 2011 Chicago Defender

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