Flooding in Park Forest
When it rains heavily, parts of Park Forest flood.
People all over Chicagoland know the damage that urban flooding can cause, from annoyances to life threatening situations. Drowned yards, damaged property, structural damage, mold, lost time, and stress to mental and physical health are all results of urban flooding. Unfortunately, the reality of the climate crisis means that heavy rains and urban flooding will only get more common in the Park Forest area. The Village is always finding ways to address urban flooding, and there are many actions that Park Foresters can take to reduce the probability and severity of flood damage in the future.
What can I do about flooding?
- If you have flooding in your yard, research the Village’s Rain Garden Incentive Program to see if a rain garden would be right for you.
- Add pieces to your downspout to make sure water isn’t flowing back to your foundation.
- Consider replacing your driveway and other paved areas with permeable pavement.
- Install rain barrels to collect excess rainwater to water your garden.
- Never flush or put down the sink anything that clogs sewer systems - no fats, oils, baby wipes, paper towels, fabric, plastic, tissues, food, etc. Learn more about what you can and can’t flush here.
- Conserve water!
What is the Village doing about flooding?
We are currently replacing all of the wastewater (sewer) lines in the Village to ensure that our system functions properly for decades. We are converting spaces in most of the Village’s parks, which were already sited to retain stormwater, into rain gardens planted with native plants. We’ve returned Central Park to the wetland that it originally was, restoring its function as a water retention area. We also have incentives for residents to build their own rain gardens in wet areas of their yards to help rain drain into the ground and not into the street or your home.
Luckily, Park Forest’s planners knew about flooding and planned our park system to act as huge reservoirs to hold excess stormwater, as you can see on the map on the right. However, some properties in the Village are still at risk. For example, a 500 year flood today (a.k.a. one that has a 0.2% chance of occurring in any one year) would leave an estimated 640 homes and businesses in the Village under half a foot of water or more. In 2050, due to more extreme weather associated with climate change, 669 buildings would be impacted by a 500 year flood.
The map at right shows the areas that would be affected, with purple being deeper water. Click the image or go to this link for an interactive map of flood risk and more information about floods. You can also enter your address to see your flood risk now, in 2035, and in 2050.
|20% chance of this size flood in a given year
|Number of buildings impacted in 2020
|Number of buildings impacted in 2050
First of all, what is urban flooding?
Unlike most types of flooding, urban flooding doesn’t necessarily happen near existing bodies of water. Urban flooding happens when water can’t seep into the ground as fast as it’s falling and sewage systems can’t handle the volume of water running into them from gutters and drains. Urban flooding results in standing water on streets and in yards, discharges of raw sewage to local waterways, water seeping into homes, and sewage backups in basements.
Equity and Flooding
Nationally, minority and lower-income families and communities are disproportionately affected by urban flooding. In Chicago, Black and Latinx made up 93% of flood claims between 2007 and 2016. This happens because minority and low-income communities, through a history of racist land development, are more often sited in low-lying areas and often have poorer infrastructure, less investment in building renovation, and less green space where excess water can safely sink into the ground. In Park Forest, the difference in flood outcomes isn’t as stark because the town was entirely planned with a knowledge of flood probability and has relatively new infrastructure compared to most places. Read more about equity in flooding in Chicagoland here.