Torrential rains pounded the Chicago area Wednesday night and Thursday morning, flooding roads and homes throughout the region, and leading to what officials are calling a disaster area across much of the region.
Gov. Pat Quinn declared a state of emergency Thursday afternoon, and more rain is expected.
Since the rains started in earnest Wednesday evening, about 5 inches of precipitation has fallen at O’Hare Airport -- prompting the National Weather Service to issue a flash flood warning.
ComEd has already reported about 24,000 customers without power throughout the area.
The rains made the Chicago River swell by roughly six feet, triggering the locks to open and reverse the flow of water back toward Lake Michigan, an official for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District said.
Kane County is experiencing flooding along the Fox River, local creeks and other low lying areas, a release from the Kane County Office of Emergency Management said. River levels are expected to rise over the next few days and anyone living along the low lying areas are encouraged to make plans to evacuate.
And in Lake County and the northwest suburbs, the Fox and Des Plaines rivers are well above flood stage, leading to flooding, road closures, and cancellation of school and municipal events. The Des Plaines was reported well above flood stage, reaching 9.89 feet at Des Plaines at 3:45 p.m.
The storm caused some suburban homes, including a nursing home in Hillside, to be evacuated. Additionally, the MWRD’s 109-mile Deep Tunnel and reservoir system was at capacity and two reservoirs are filled with 2.3 billion gallons of water.
More than 600 flights were cancelled at O’Hare Airport and more than 30 flights were cancelled at Midway Airport, according to the Chicago Department of Aviation. Flight delays were averaging about 90 minutes at O’Hare and about 30 minutes at Midway as of about 3:30 p.m.
Some roads leading to O’Hare had been closed for much of the day, but only Irving Park Road between Mannheim and York remained closed near the airport Thursday afternoon.
The Edens Expressway was completely shut down after cars stalled in standing water between Foster and Touhy avenues, and Winnetka and Willow roads, according to Illinois State Police District Chicago. Those portions of the expressway were not reopened to traffic until late Thursday afternoon.
On the Eisenhower Expressway, westbound lanes were closed at St. Charles Road, and eastbound lanes were closed near Route 20, and Mannheim Road, state police said. Those areas were reopened about 10:30 a.m.
Some lanes on the Dan Ryan Expressway were also closed to traffic Thursday morning on the South Side and a state police car stalled in standing water on the northbound Kennedy at the Addison exit, state police said.
Those roads were reopened, but a portion of the Bishop Ford Freeway between 95th Street and Sibley Avenuen remained closed late Thursday afternoon.
Additionally, a large sinkhole swallowed three vehicles in the 9600 block of South Houston Avenue at 5:20 a.m., Chicago Police said. Nobody was injured.
Emergency management officials throughout the area are urging motorists not to drive through flooded roadways. The water is often deeper than motorists think and can hide hazards that can disable vehicles in the middle of the flooded roadway.
One of these vehicles was a school bus that got stuck on a flooded road in an unincorporated area of Oswego in Kendall County. There were only five people on the bus at the time and all were safely taken off the bus, sheriff’s police said.
Several CTA buses throughout the city were temporarily rerouted because of flooding, including: the No. 55 Garfield, the No. 70 Division, the No. 9 Ashland, the No. 92 Foster, the No. 52A South Kedzie and the No. 63 Street, according to the CTA. Additionally, northbound No. 135 Clarendon/LaSalle Express, No. 146 Inner Drive/Michigan Express, and No. 147 Outer Drive Express buses were rerouted via Lawrence, Marine, and Foster, because of flooding on the North Side.
Blue Line train service was interrupted Thursday morning near Forest Park because of a power loss from the severe weather and, separately, trains were operating in the morning with significant delays because of standing water from severe weather near Rosemont, the CTA said. The evening rush was being affected by Red Lines trains running on the elevated tracks from Chinatown to Fullerton.
A number of Metra rail lines were also impacted by the flooding, including The Union Pacific/West line, the North Central line, The BNSF line, and the Rock Island district line. Trains on the Union Pacific line were stopped in the morning, while the other commuter lines reported morning delays of up to 45 minutes, Metra said.
Flooding prompted authorities to close roads throughout the suburbs, and the DuPage County Health Department and the Skokie Courthouse closed because of flooding in the area. The Park District announced that the Fern Room at the Garfield Park Conservatory was closed due to flooding, but the rest of the facility is open. And for only the third time in its history, the Brookfield Zoo was closed on Thursday because of the weather.
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