Weather Updates

Record-breaking rains soak Chicago area; man dies from heat stroke

Northfield 07/23/11
A street flooded near ClarksPark Northfield Saturday sending garbage cans floating near Williow Hill Court development.
|Allen Kaleta~for Sun-Times Media

Northfield, 07/23/11 A street flooded near the Clarkson Park in Northfield, Saturday sending garbage cans floating near the Williow Hill Court development. |Allen Kaleta~for Sun-Times Media

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Updated: July 24, 2011 11:31AM

Heavy, record-breaking rains drenched the Chicago area early Saturday and left a wet mess, dampening normally effortless weekend commutes and leaving thousands without power as the blistering heat returned in full force.

It was the “rainiest day” in Chicago since 1871 with 6.86 inches of water storming down on O’Hare, according to the National Weather Service. The prior record was on Sept. 13, 2008 with 6.64 inches of rain.

On Saturday, officials with the Cook County medical examiner’s office said a 59-year-old Uptown man, David Nikuni, died from heat stroke, bringing the number of Chicago area residents who died from weather related causes in the recent heat wave to eight. Cooler temperatures prevailed overnight, but the oppressive heat made a comeback with a high in the mid-80s Saturday. That broke the six-day streak of 90 degree temperatures, but the roller coaster, rainy and scorching weather combination will stay put. Today’s high is expected to reach the low 90s with a heat index of 105. And a flood watch remains in effect until this evening.

As of Saturday evening, 31,000 of the 160,000 ComEd customers who lost power from outages caused by the storms remained in the dark, according to a spokeswoman.

Those hoping for some relief at Chicago beaches were out of luck. The Chicago Park District issued a swim ban because bacteria came with the rainfall.

The rain was so severe, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District opened the locks at Wilmette and the Chicago River.

The rain also brought headaches to motorists as they encountered flooding on roads and expressways, including Lake Shore Drive.

At some point, the ramp on I-94 to I-57 north was “under water,” Illinois State Police District Chicago Master Sgt. Michael Merrill said, noting that the highways were cleared by late Saturday morning.

The Chicago Fire Department rescued many stranded commuters, including two semi-truck drivers who hopped on top of their trucks as their vehicles soaked in 10 feet of water on I-57 near 99th Street, department spokesman Larry Langford said.

The CTA, which experienced problems with the weather was mostly back on track, save for the Blue Line, which was running on a single track between O’Hare and Rosemont because of signaling problem caused by the storms.

A bus shuttle remains in place and a CTA spokeswoman said travelers heading to O’Hare should allow some extra time today.

Those already at O’Hare, saw just over 100 cancellations and minor delays. Midway Airport reported normal operations.

At least one overnight fire may have been caused by a lightning in Lake View. A firefighter suffered minor injuries while battling the blaze, at 1617 W. Byron, Langford said.

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