Calumet Heights is about 11 miles southeast of the Loop. It is bordered by 87th St. on the north, South Chicago Avenue on the east, 95th St. to the south, and railroad lines on the west. Today, Calumet Heights is home to over 13,000 residents.
The story of Calumet Heights reads like many communities in Chicago. It was mostly unoccupied swampland until the 1870s when it became the incorporated Township of Hyde Park swampland. In 1887 the Calumet Heights subdivision was created.
As of 2014, Calumet Heights includes over 5,000 households. Of the 91% are occupied housing units, 65% are occupied by owners and over 9% of homes in the community are vacant. Over 90% of the homes in Calumet Heights were built in 1969 or earlier and 6% of the housing was built between 1970 and 1999. Only 2% of housing was built in 2000 or later.
Flooding in the Community
Today, Calumet Heights experiences severe and repeated flooding. From 2007 to 2011, 1,319 flood-related insurance claims were filed in the 60617 and 60619 zipcodes, with more than $3,790,875 paid out in damages (CNT, 2014).
Figure 1. Flood Damage Claims in Calumet Heights from 2007-2011
In 2013, the City of Chicago was granted Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds after April 2013 brought a “10 Year Storm”. During the days of the storm, residents from Calumet Heights called 311 for assistance 166 times. As seen in the image below, during the storm residents across the Calumet Heights community had water in their basement or could see water in the street.
In response to the flood waters, the City of Chicago allocated $11.075 million of CDBG-DR funding to rebuild streets to better manage flooding. The changes range from infiltration trenches to repaving streets with porous asphalt. Unfortunately, the funds allocated will only amount to 3.5 miles of streets being repaired and upgraded; there are approximately 8 miles of streets that have been identified as needing repair in moderate-to-low income community areas. The city has stated that the streets left unaddressed will be first in line for assistance when more funding is available.
Figure 2. Calumet Heights 311 Flood Related Calls in 2013 by Block Group
How are Properties Affected?
Our analysis has found that residents and business owners in Chicago experience several types of flooding:
- Basement backup from the local sewer system and private lateral lines, impacting several parts of town.
- Street flooding from local drainage issues, causing pooling in the street.
- Foundation seepage, causing rot and mold in basement walls.
Four main factors contribute to flooding in Calumet Heights:
- Increasing impervious surfaces: As open lands are converted into parking lots, streets, and rooftops, rainwater finds fewer places to sink into the ground.
- Aging sewer infrastructure: As sewer systems age, pipes may collapse or crack, causing local drainage issues.
- More severe storms: Climate change is bringing more frequent high-intensity storms to the region.
- Flat topography: Most stormwater is directed via gravity. Flat streets in the city create challenges for moving the water out of neighborhoods.
Reducing your Risks
RainReady is working with the communities of Avalon Park, Chatham, South Shore, Pullman, Calumet Park, and Washington Heights to better understand the impact of heavy rain on the communities in order to reduce or eliminate flooding. We need your help! By filling in our online survey, you can help us identify where the flooding and wet basements are occurring, so that we can better target support.
Protecting your Home
- Assess Your Property: To reduce risk, you must understand the way water moves across your property. An engineer, plumber, electrician, or landscape designer can help, but often you can identify the cause of flooding by walking the property and taking photos during a storm.
- Make Yard Improvements: Plant trees and native Plants to soak up the water in your yard and parkway. Regrade your yard and redirect gutter downspouts so that water drains away from your home.
- Manage Water Within Your Home: Prepare your basement for water. Lift appliances off the floor, put valuables in plastic storage bins, and consider investing in a sump pump, backup generator, backwater valve, overhead sewer, or drain tiles.
- Get Insured: Educate yourself about insurance policies and invest in the best policy for your needs. Most home insurance policies do not cover flood damage. You can purchase a sewer rider to cover basement backup, or look into the National Flood Insurance Program if you experience riverine flooding. No insurance covers damage from foundation seepage.
- Expect and Prepare for Extreme Weather: If the experts predict rain, prepare your home. Clear your drainage areas, secure your windows and doors, and check your sump pump. If you experienced flooding, call your flood insurance company to file a claim. Even if you aren’t covered, note the date and time as well as the depth of the water document and photograph items that were damaged, including their estimated value.
 Source: 2000 And 2010 Census, 2014 American Community Survey Five-Year Estimates., and *note That All CCA & Regional Medians Were Calculated Based On Grouped Frequency Distributions. "Community Data Snapshot: Calumet Heights." 36.6Community Data Snapshot: Calumet Heights (2016): n. Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning: Community Snapshots. Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, June 2016. Web.
 CITY OF CHICAGO, ILLINOIS CDBG-DR Action Plan (n.d.):. Web.