Global warming: Up close and in microcosm

Global warming:  Up close and in microcosm

From Lake County, Illinois:

Lake County, Illinois has been experiencing more frequent and stronger rainfall events than ever before. In 2018, Lake County went above flood stage during six separate storm events. This was triple the average number of flood events that went above flood stage in Lake County over the previous 10 years, and it was a record for the county.

"According to the Fourth National Climate Assessment released in November 2018, the globe is getting warmer," said Mike Warner, Stormwater Management Commission (SMC) Executive Director. "Warm air not only holds more water, but it also has more energy, which leads to stronger storms. Over the last few years, Lake County has seen the results of this effect in the form of increased rainfall events, leading to a rise in flooding."

In July 2017, Lake County was inundated by heavy rains. Some communities received over seven inches of rain in a 24-hour period. The rain not only led to flash flooding that impacted roads, homes, parks, businesses, and more, but also resulted in the overflowing of our major rivers that prolonged flooding in several communities. In addition, every river gauge in the county set new record heights.

With current rainfall trends, Lake County could be on track to break 2018's flood stage exceedance in 2019. Rainfall events this year have already caused river levels to exceed flood stage four times.
The increased rainfall also impacts other Lake County operations, including the Lake County Division of Transportation and Public Works which has to factor rainfall into designs for infrastructure improvements, and the Lake County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) which is the lead on flood response efforts for the County.

β€œThe increasing number of potential and actual flooding events is driving our EMA to pay closer attention to the weather and monitor the river levels more closely," said Paul Mazzeno, EMA Manager. "We teamed with SMC to establish activation levels for our Emergency Operations Center so we can ramp up our flood monitoring and response. The last few years have been particularly active for our small staff.”

In addition to working with EMA and providing stormwater guidance when needed for other departments, SMC is taking further steps to help Lake County and its residents.

"Moving forward, to protect against this increasing trend in precipitation, we need to make our county, communities, subdivisions, homes and ourselves more resilient, so we are able to withstand and recover more quickly from heavy rainfall and flood related events," said Warner. "One of the ways SMC is looking to help Lake County is by evaluating and revising the Watershed Development Ordinance (WDO) as a significant number of new building requirements are affected by the new data.

SMC also provides cost-effective flood reduction tools to help assist residents right now. From hosting floodproofing workshops and providing tips on how to flood proof a home, to running a floodplain buyout program for qualified individuals, Lake County residents can use these tools to alleviate some of the flooding they may receive from increased rainfall.

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