An incredible amount of rain fell on the Chicago metropolitan area Wednesday night and into Thursday morning, flooding homes and roads, and prompting officials to issue disaster proclamations.
"I urge everyone to stay alert and avoid flooded areas," Gov. Pat Quinn said. "Residents should tune in to local TV and radio stations for updated information about any closed routes or evacuations."
He declared a state of emergency Thursday afternoon, after more than five inches of rain had fallen on the area.
Rain and floodwaters caused hundreds of cancelations at Chicago's airports, left up to 24,000 Commonwealth Edison customers without power and forced officials to empty the 109 mile "deep tunnel" system, sending a mixture of sewage and storm water into Lake Michigan.
On the roadways, rain and flooding caused parts of the Edens, Eisenhower and Bishop Ford expressways to close in both directions. The list of closed roadways grew throughout the region as the rain persisted.
On Chicago's south side, one person was injured after three vehicles were swallowed by a large sinkhole. Two cars were inside the hole when fire crews arrived. A third car, which was parked, slid into the hole after they arrived.
Multiple schools were closed for the weather and the Illinois Department of Transportation urged commuters to stay home instead of fighting with flooded roadways.
Among the vehicles caught in the floodwaters was a school bus 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.
In Chicago, transit officials rerouted buses around flooded streets. Blue Line service was temporarily suspended because of a power loss. Metra service on several lines, including The Union Pacific/West line, the North Central line, The BNSF line, and the Rock Island district line, also had delays.
At O'Hare International Airport, where more than 600 flights were canceled, water was seen falling through the roof of Terminal 3. Many of the flights that were coming and going were delayed an average of two hours.
Even getting to O'Hare was a challenge. Some roads leading to the airport were closed for much of the day, but only Irving Park Road between Mannheim and York remained closed near the airport Thursday afternoon.
Conditions were a little better at Midway International Airport, where officials reported about 30 cancellations and delays averaging about 30 minutes.
Even the animals at the Brookfield Zoo were affected by the rain. For only the third time in the zoo's history, they had no visitors because the park was closed.
Among the towns hardest hit with more than five inches of rain were Elmhurst, Lisle, Lombard, Aurora and Wheaton. By 7:30 a.m. the Des Plaines River had risen to 10 feet.
Lombard officials declared a State of Emergency as the flooding continued.
"The Village of Lombard has received approximately five inches of rain during the last 24 hours, which has led to flooded roads, ponds overtopping their banks and hazardous conditions," officials said. "The weather forecast anticipates rain throughout the morning, which will lead to additional high water and flood conditions."
A short time later the village of Lisle also declared a State of Emergency, directing residents who need to evacuate their homes or businesses for flooding to the Krasa Center at Benedictine University.
"Due to the extensive flooding residents, commuters, and visitors are advised to avoid unnecessary travel," officials said. "The Lisle Police Department also advises of the dangers of attempting to drive or walk through standing or flood waters. Waters can vary in depth and current causing vehicles or people to be swept away."
The Des Plaines and Fox rivers were also above flood stage in Lake County and the northwest suburbs, causing road closures and the cancellation of school and municipal events.
In Des Plaines, the Des Plaines river was recorded at 9.89 feet at 3:45 p.m. National Weather Service officials said they expected it to crest Friday at 11.5 feet. That prompted Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle to issue a disaster proclamation.
This historic level of flooding will impact many people and conditions will likely get worse before they improve in many areas," she said. "Dangerous conditions exist and it is important for residents to continue to be aware of their surroundings and exercise caution."
Kane County also experienced flooding as the water in the Fox River and local creeks swelled. Emergency management officials said they expected the water to continue to rise over the next few days and urged anyone living along the low lying areas to make plans to evacuate.
In LaSalle County, a small hospital was evacuated after floodwaters from the Illinois River and another nearby creek flowed into the building's lower level. Lightning was also to blame for knocking out power to a nuclear power plant, and officials with the Army Corps of Engineers late in the day were keeping an eye on the small town of Marseilles after six barges struck a dam, threatening a levee.
The National Weather Service issued a Severe Thunderstorm Watch for all of northern Illinois on Wednesday. Portions of Illinois and Indiana were under a tornado watch, and while conditions were right for the formation of a funnel cloud, none were reported.
Wednesday night in Naperville, crews battled a house fire that may have been caused by a lightning strike. Officials responded to the home, on the 2400 block of Thaxton Court, at about 3:30 p.m. and quickly had the situation under control. Information about injuries and the amount of damage was not immediately available.
Another house fire in Mundelein may also have been caused by lightning. Crews there battled a fire at a home on the 26000 block of Long Meadow Circle. No one was injured in that fire.
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