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Lake County drainage keeping up with heavy rain; Little Calumet holding steady

Lake County’s drainage system is doing its job keeping up with the rain that has fallen since this weekend.

Residents may be on edge about the potential for flooding, but so far officials say the network of ditches, creeks and waterways that drain Lake County are working and presently there is not imminent danger of floods.

Surveyor Bill Emerson Jr., said there was some localized flooding in parts of south Lake County after the heavy rains Sunday and more localized flooding could occur if a large amount of rain falls again Wednesday and Thursday.

Rain gauges tracked by the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network showed that more than 1.5 inches fell Sunday in most parts of the county, with one gauge near Lowell measuring almost 2.25 inches, the highest recorded.

“Luckily it wasn’t as much as anticipated,” Emerson said. River gauges have started to decline. The Kankakee River is forecast to hit up to 12 feet before the weather dries up, but the surveyor said 12 feet at Shelby is a manageable level.

The county previously installed a diversion pipe in the Shady Shores subdivision into Ernie Niemeyer Ditch so when the bayou rises, the water is redirected. The move has reduced flooding in the area.

Emerson said a proactive approach to ensuring waterways are clear during good weather, including removing debris from under bridges and other places where trees or wildlife may have created blockages, helps to control flooding during heavy rains.

So far, Emerson said, while creeks and ditches are high, banks are holding out and there have not been any blowouts or major blockages.

“I’m hoping we miss some of the heavy rain coming. Everything is saturated and the ditches need to go down,” Emerson said.

Emerson said a couple trouble spots he’s keeping an eye on are in Lake Dale, along with Faust Ditch and Cedar Creek, which move water the lake’s water. Singleton Ditch south of Indiana 2 reached its banks on Sunday leaving no visible space between the water and Monon Road, under which it flows, he said.

“Pretty much all of our ditches are at capacity right now,” Emerson said. A short break in the rain will help but it typically takes several days for water to makes its way through the drainage system.

He thanked residents in south Lake County for keeping an eye on the ditches and creeks that run through their properties.

“We really rely on our farming community to report things like blowouts and bank breaches,” Emerson said.

Dan Repay, executive director of the Little Calumet River Basin Development Commission, said there are no concerns right now on the river or its tributaries.

“Most of the heavy stuff thankfully went down to the south of us. We are just dealing with scatter stuff at this point,” Repay said.

All of the gauges are showing everything is leveling off and in some cases decreasing. Some areas will be wet a little longer than others.

“Everything is working the way it is supposed to. We haven’t had any issue in our system,” Repay said.

Repay has been out the last three days checking in on typical problem areas, but so far there is nothing to report and nothing has been reported to the commission.

Repay said he understands people’s concerns over the possibility of flooding and the damage it may cause.

“2008 scarred a lot of people,” Repay said. Coupled with National Weather Service flood warnings and flood watches, that can ratchet up the anxiety. Sometimes the floods in the warnings and watches hit, sometimes they do not, but the warning is needed to make people aware of the possibility.

“That generates anxiety,” Repay said. Routine preventative maintenance and cleanup help keep things flowing.

“We will probably have to do some cleanup after this,” Repay said, anticipating the possibility of newly fallen trees or branches in the waterways.

cnapoleon@chicagotribune.com