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'Powerhouse storm' could cause floods in county

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014 10:54 a.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014 11:52 a.m. CDT
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(H. Rick Bamman – hbamman@shawmedia.com)
Crystal Lake Supervisor of Streets James Veugeler clears snow from a storm drain Wednesday as maintenance worker Dave Shine operates a front-end loader near Sarasota Lane and Colony Drive in Crystal Lake.

CRYSTAL LAKE – James Veugeler needed more than a shovel.

Veugeler, streets supervisor for Crystal Lake, deployed multiple dumpster trucks Wednesday to clear storm drains, streets and sidewalks ahead of potentially damaging rainstorm Thursday that could cause flooding throughout areas of the county.

The National Weather Service issued a special weather statement Wednesday warning of a “powerhouse storm system” that could include rain, freezing rain, snow, thunder, sleet, ice and 50 mph wind gusts.

“We’re doing all we can to prepare for what could be a lot of rain,” Veugeler said. “We have a pretty good idea of where the flooding locations are.”

The system is expected to arrive late Wednesday night and continue through most of Thursday, according to forecasts. McHenry County is expected to receive a mild mix of those ­elements with the more severe storm likely to hit south of I-88.

What hits McHenry County depends on a matter of a degree or two as low temperatures Wednesday night are expected to fluctuate around 30 degrees, making the near-sure precipitation either rain, freezing rain or heavy snow. A quarter inch of ice accumulation is possible depending on which side of the 30-degree mark temperatures come in at Wednesday night.

Veugeler said he expects the worst of the storm to hit between 5 and 10:30 a.m.

Despite the multitude of possibilities, the largest threat to McHenry County remains localized flooding, said David Christensen, the county’s director of emergency management.

As the storm passes through Thursday, the temperature could still be in the high 40s, resulting in a damaging combination of melting snow and heavy precipitation. Christensen said it could cause localized flooding, and he encouraged residents to start preparations for what could be a long flood season.

Christensen said homeowners should start clearing culverts and gutters, moving snow to create drainage paths away from the house and moving furniture, appliances and valuables to higher floors in the home. Sump pumps and backups should also be prepared.

“Our worst flooding usually originates in Wisconsin, but there will still likely be some, just not at a disastrous level,” Christensen said of the coming storm. “Flooding is imminent though with how frozen the ground has become. We’re gonna take a bit of a hit this year.”

With the ground frozen as deep as five feet beneath the surface, the ground will be saturated longer, Christensen said. He noted long-term planning should include double-checking flood insurance to clarify what is covered as many residents were surprised last year with what their plans entailed, he said.

The flood season could still be weeks away as another cold front is expected to follow Thursday’s storm. Temperatures will drop to the low 20s and teens this weekend and into next week, according to the National Weather Service.

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