City and state officials are mobilizing to help residents and businesses that have been hard-hit by erosion along the shores of Lake Michigan.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot issued a local disaster proclamation to deal with flooding and significant damage caused to “Chicago’s shoreline, infrastructure and recreational areas,” and Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker issued a state disaster proclamation for more than 30 miles of lakeshore in Lake and Cook counties.
The proclamations come after severe weather did extensive damage to the lakefront on Jan. 10 and 11.
“In the wake of another devastating disaster, I have directed all state agencies to help local communities recover and rebuild,” Pritzker said in a statement. “This recent storm brought 23-foot waves onto shoreline areas. Critical infrastructure was destroyed, impacting roads, residential neighborhoods and recreational areas.”
The proclamations will allow state and local officials access to emergency funding, and it won’t come a moment too soon for those who live and work near the lake.
“We barely have any rock left,” Rogers Park resident Greg Vallarta said.
The large boulders that used to block waves along the Rogers Park beach are disappearing, along with iron fencing and a wind screen that were nearly completely destroyed after last month’s winter storms.
Snow-covered concrete along the lake is cracking as well, and residents are worried that their homes could be impacted by continued inclement weather.
“The waves were coming here, crashing against the door, and it was just insane,” Vallarta said.
Emergency funding would likely be used to strengthen the shoreline along Lake Michigan with large rocks, and would add concrete barriers to major arteries, including Lake Shore Drive and Sheridan Road.
“This declaration is critical to our ability to access funds to mitigate the damage our shoreline and communities are sustaining,” Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said in a statement.
Pritzker’s office announced that the governor is seeking additional time from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to document information needed to support a federal disaster declaration.
The sense of urgency is only heightened by the record-setting water levels along the lake, which the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration believes will continue well into 2020.