By David E. Hubler
Contributor, EDM Digest
Chicago, known as the Windy City, might also be known as the “Wet City” after Wednesday's torrential downpour.
Local weather forecasters reported two to three inches of rain fell per hour Wednesday night, flooding homes and swelling rivers and streams. The rain also forced some hospital evacuations.
By early Thursday morning, more than eight inches of rain had fallen in some areas. High winds and downed trees knocked out power to tens of thousands of homes, officials said. Many roads were closed.
Chicago River Rises to Near Flood Stage
In Chicago, the north branch of the Chicago River rose to about five feet, just two feet below the flood stage, the Chicago Tribune reported.
“The initial round of floodwaters blocked roads and train lines, stranded cars and filled basements, forcing hundreds of people out of their homes, some of whom were rescued by boat,” the Tribune said.
By Thursday morning, the Des Plaines River at Gurnee and Lincolnshire in Lake County and Des Plaines in Cook County exceeded flood stages, according to the National Weather Service.
In parts of Cook County, particularly along the Des Plaines River, communities were dealing with road closures and localized flooding. Forecasters predict the Des Plaines River will continue to rise through Friday evening and may crest at about 12.5 feet.
Lake County Asks Governor to Declare State of Emergency
The storms particularly affected Lake County. County officials declared a state of emergency, which they sent to Governor Bruce Rauner (R) and the Illinois Emergency Management Agency. The officials said the severe flooding had created a disaster, according to WLS-TV Channel 7.
Lake Forest Hospital announced late Wednesday that flood-related power outages were hampering operations and patients had to be evacuated to nearby facilities.
Libertyville was declared a state of emergency after seven inches of rain fell in less than 24 hours and Northwestern Hospital was evacuated, NBC Channel 5 in Chicago reported.
Lake Forest Deputy Police Chief Rob Copeland said that public works employees were called in at 3 a.m. to assist with closing down flooded roads.
“The past 24 hours have been very challenging for the residents of Lake County as we respond to the flood," Lake County Board Chairman Aaron Lawlor said in a statement. "Once the waters recede, recovery, cleanup, and damage assessment will continue for weeks. It’s important to remember we are all in this together.”
While repeated rounds of thunderstorms are typical of Chicago-area summers, the intensity of Wednesday's storms was unusual, NWS meteorologist Mike Bardou told the Tribune. “The exact impact of flooding Thursday depends on additional rains expected from a continuing pattern of upper atmosphere winds heading east over very moist air from the southwest,” Bardou explained.
"Our big concern Thursday is the Fox River," Kane County Office of Emergency Management Director Don Bryant commented to the Tribune. "We need to be ready if we need to evacuate people."
Flood warnings remain in effect for the next several days. The warnings include the Chicago River's North Branch in Albany Park, the Fox River below the Algonquin Dam and the Des Plaines River in Gurnee, Lincolnshire, Des Plaines, River Forest and Riverside.
Some road closures were also expected to continue into Thursday.
The initial round of floodwaters blocked roads and train lines, stranded cars and filled basements, forcing hundreds of people out of their homes, some of whom were rescued by boat, officials said. High winds and downed trees also knocked out power to tens of thousands of homes.
The American Red Cross of Greater Chicago opened shelters in Round Lake Beach, Grayslake, North Chicago and on Chicago's Northwest Side.
The Red Cross also set up a flood hotline for people to get help. Local emergency workers said they were available to help residents contact with Red Cross services.
About the Author
David E. Hubler brings a variety of government, journalism and teaching experience to his position as a Quality Assurance Editor at APUS. David’s professional background includes serving as a senior editor at CIA and the Voice of America. He has also been a managing editor for several business-to-business and business-to-government publishing companies. David has taught high school English in Connecticut and at Northern Virginia Community College. He has a master’s degree for Teachers of English from the University of New Hampshire and a B.A. in English from New York University. David’s 2015 book, “The Nats and the Grays, How Baseball in the Nation’s Capital Survived WWII and Changed the Game Forever,” was recently published in paperback by Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.