When the forecast calls for heavy rain, Helen Lekavich braces for the worst.

“You don’t go to sleep. You set your alarm. You continuously wake up,” she says. “You get in your car in the middle of the night. You drive to see what is it doing? How close is it coming?”

Lekavich lives in Midlothian, Illinois, downhill from a small creek that overflows during heavy rain. Fast, rushing water inundates yards and homes.

“It’s terrifying,” she says. “At one point it heaved my three-car garage off the ground. … It has heaved all of my landscaping, the bushes.”

She says Midlothian has always had a problem with flooding, but it’s gotten much worse in recent years.

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“We have extreme, fast rains. We’re getting one- and two-inch rains in an hour and a half. That’s something that didn’t used to happen,” she says.

Lekavich leads a group of residents fighting for flood relief. Largely because of their efforts, the region’s stormwater management agency is now spending about $8 million to widen the creek channel, enlarge culverts, and divert stormwater.

It’s progress, but Lekavich says it does not fully solve the problem. Many homes could still flood when the most intense rains strike. So as weather grows more extreme, the risks remain.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.