Officials, residents anxiously watch river levels as rain continues

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DUPAGE COUNTY -- Officials are closely watching rising river levels Sunday after rain lashed the western suburbs and greater Chicago area, creating traffic problems and only minor flooding - for now.

After a wave of downpours drenched the northwest suburbs this weekend, the DuPage River spilled beyond its banks on its east branch Sunday night. Forecasters say the river could rise above flood stage Monday before receding on Tuesday.

Near the entrance of the Morton Arboretum, the swollen river swallowed trees, lapping over its banks and spilling onto the road that snakes alongside it. Authorities shut down a busy stretch of Illinois Route 53 for most of the day, causing traffic headaches in the region.

Resident Joyce Farrell said she remembers times when the river overflowed across 53 and onto the side streets.

"There’s been times when...there was people in canoes. I remember that when I was a kid,” she said.

Public works trucks blocked the road and “water on pavement” signs halted traffic on side streets in Milton Township. Tracy Roberts owns a home in the flood plain and says she’s concerned about flooding as the forecast calls for more wet weather.

"We’re going to continue to watch it and hopefully it doesn’t come in, but as the east branch of the DuPage River overflows, being in a flood plain – we are likely to get something," she said.

Plumbers could be seen parked in the driveways of many of these low-lying homes as residents watch the sky. More storms are in the forecast Sunday night, while the ground is already saturated and the rivers are already swollen.

Rising rivers in Chicago

In Chicago, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District announced it had to pump sewage and storm runoff into Lake Michigan because of all the rainfall. Albany Park residents are also keeping a close eye on the north branch of the Chicago river as it's expected to reach 6.2' Sunday night. This weekend concrete barricades with sandbags were put in place near Eugene Field because of the area's history of flooding.

The temporary wall is supposed to protect the 300 or so homes that have flooded in the past while the Chicago Department of Transportation works on building a mile-long stormwater diversion tunnel. Buried 150 feet under Foster Ave., the tunnel will divert water from the north branch of the Chicago River by pumping it to the North Shore Channel. But it won't be complete until 2018, so officials are asking residents to cut back on water use to clear space for excess storm water.