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Storm dumped “too much rain in too little time,” official says

Heavy rains overnight flooded 87th Street NatomBurbank.  |  Brian Jackson/Sun-Times

Heavy rains overnight flooded 87th Street at Natoma in Burbank. | Brian Jackson/Sun-Times

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Updated: August 22, 2014 1:45PM



The Chicago area was starting to bail out Friday morning from storms that dumped several inches of rain on the city overnight.

By the start of rush hour, highways were mostly clear, though many side streets and parts of a few major roads were under water.

The south and southwestern suburbs seemed to bear the brunt of the rainfall, with Burbank and Oak Lawn being especially hard hit.

Oak Lawn village manager Larry Deetjen said a retention pond at 87th and Austin failed, flooding nearby adjacent streets.

“Thousands of gallons” spilled out, closing 87th Street from Oak Park to Ridgeland, Deetjen said. Also, stormwater manhole covers popped off near 103rd and Cicero.

Oak Lawn is still dealing with power outages from a storm the day before, and still has about 300 residents without power.

“We have been very vocal about the need” to increase capacity for handling stormwater, Deetjen said.

“That has been our position for some time. There is undeveloped property adjacent to Oak Lawn and it needs to remain undeveloped.”

Officials with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, meanwhile, went to the scene of that retention pond to check things out. In a news release, the water district said they wanted to make sure the pump station was running properly.

Up to 4.5 inches of rain fell in three hours, the district estimated, filling the stormwater drainage system.

“We are doing everything we can to address the problem; however, there was too much rain in too little time,” water district president Kathleen Meany said in a statement.

“The equipment is functioning as designed, but these events make it clear that we need a resilient plan for the Chicago region,” she added.

Recent legislation, the statement noted, has expanded the water reclamation district’s ability to assist communities with these types of problems.

“Ultimately, we all need to work together to figure out how to solve these issues because they’re not going away.”

Rains also delayed some bus routes and temporarily shut down service near the end of the CTA’s Blue Line in Forest Park.

Three inches of rain fell at Midway Airport between 1 a.m. and 4 a.m. Friday, according to the National Weather Service. Another 1.47 inches fell at O’Hare during the same time.

The westbound lanes of the Kennedy Expressway (I-90) were closed at Kimball Avenue after a crash occurred about 3:30 a.m. that involved two semi trucks, police said. No injuries were reported. Lanes reopened about 6:15 a.m.

Though highways were mostly clear, some other major roads were affected. Parts of 1st Avenue were closed for a time by high water in the Riverside area, but police in the western suburb were reporting that road was open by 7:30 a.m.

Franklin Park officials reported that Mannheim Road from Lake Street to I-290 remained closed due to flooding as of 7:45 a.m.

Bridgeview Police Commander Peter Kokkinis reported that the flooded viaduct at 95th Street and Harlem Avenue should be reopened by 11 a.m.

A similar situation had closed Western Avenue at 75th Street.

DuPage County Stormwater Management opened multiple flood-control facilities to combat rising stream levels in the west and northwest suburbs Friday morning, according to a statement from the county.

The Elmhurst Quarry Flood Control Facility, Spring Creek Reservoir in Bloomingdale and Fawell Dam in Naperville are being used to control water levels along Salt Creek and the west branch of the DuPage River, the statement said.

Standing water covered many neighborhoods, especially in the southern and southwestern suburbs.

Melvin Lane, who lives in the 9300 block of Cornell Avenue, near Stony Island Avenue, said his street was a pond, which is something he’s had to get used to.

“We get this every time it rains,” said Lane, who has lived there since 1967.

“It’s all over. People can’t get out. I don’t know why the city hasn’t fixed this.”

Several Pace bus routes on the Southwest Side and nearby suburbs were delayed because personnel were unable to get to the Southwest Division’s garage facility. Routes were scheduled to start operating at 4:30 a.m., but were delayed for at least an hour, according to Pace. The bus service expected small detours along routes because of street flooding.

The routes affected were: No. 379 Midway – Orland Square, No. 381 95th Street, No. 382 Central – Clearing, No. 383 South Cicero, No. 384 Narragansett/Ridgeland, No. 385 87th/111th/127th and No. 386 South Harlem, according to Pace.

Just before 4 a.m., the CTA suspended Blue Line service between the Forest Park and Harlem stations due to flooding. As of 5:15 a.m., service had resumed with residual delays, according to the CTA.

The National Weather Service upgraded its initial flood advisory to the warning about 2:20 a.m. for Cook and DuPage counties, as well as parts of Lake County in northwest Indiana. However, by 4 a.m., the severe weather had moved out of the area, according to the weather service.

Late Friday and early Saturday also face a chance of widespread rainfall, according to the weather service. Some storms could again bring heavy rain to the area.

Several schools also were closed in the Burbank area.

Contributing: Sue Lafferty, Reema Amin, Sam Charles, Luke Wilusz.



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