Chicago Weather

Day of Rain Leaves Chicago River Surging, Roads Flooding

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A day full of showers and thunderstorms culminated in significant flooding Sunday evening as rain overflowed the Chicago River and rendered some local roadways impassable.

Nearly three inches of rain had fallen by 11 p.m. Sunday, and though the worst of the storms have passed, a flood warning remains in effect until 1 p.m. Monday, the National Weather Service said.

“The water is only going to continue to rise even after the rain stops because the ground is so heavily saturated — the water has nowhere to go,” weather service meteorologist Matt Friedlein said.

The Chicago River could be seen spilling over its banks Sunday evening, submerging the Riverwalk in some spots, and meteorologists expect the water levels to continue rising.

The river was in a “rapid-rise state” Sunday evening, according to weather service meteorologist Matt Friedlein.

In response to the flooding, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District announced they had reversed the flow of the river to Lake Michigan at both the Wilmette Pumping Station and Chicago River Controlling Works near the lake.

The flooding also caused the CTA to suspend Blue Line service for about four hours between the Forest Park and Harlem stations on the Forest Park branch, according to the transit authority. The Red Line was suspended between the Garfield and 95th Street stations for nearly half an hour due to “debris on the tracks.”

The newest round of showers and thunderstorms followed a day of record-setting rain leading into the weekend.

Friedlein encouraged residents to stay home, saying that flooded roads after dark were “a bad combination.”

Major flooding was reported on roadways across the Chicago area including Lower Wacker Drive, where the water had risen so high that the Chicago Fire Department had to send in boats to remove homeless people and motorists who were trapped there. Six people had been rescued as of late Sunday evening.

Illinois State police said Interstate 290 was temporarily shut down at Des Plaines Avenue and Interstate 94 was closed at Pratt Avenue due to the deluge. Both expressways were reopened by 1 a.m. Monday.

The Cook County Department of Transportation said that six inches of water could cause a loss of control or stall many vehicles, while a foot of water may cause some vehicles to float. Two feet of water will sweep away most vehicles, the Department of Transportation said.

The rain is expected to continue until Tuesday, with temperatures hovering in the 50s, the weather service said.

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