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Day of rain leaves Chicago River surging, roads flooding

A record-setting 3.11 inches of rain fell on Sunday, making it the 5th wettest day of May ever recorded in Chicago, according to the National Weather Service.

The Chicago River overflowed its banks and flooded the Riverwalk early Monday after a day of showers and thunderstorms across the city.
The Chicago River overflowed its banks and flooded the Riverwalk early Monday after a day of showers and thunderstorms across the city.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

A day full of showers on Sunday overflowed the Chicago River and culminated in significant flooding that continued into Monday.

A record-setting 3.11 inches of rain fell on Sunday, making it the 5th wettest day of May ever recorded in Chicago, according to the National Weather Service.

“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.

Willis Tower had flooding in his basement and was shut down May 18, 2020, due to a power outage.
Willis Tower had flooding in his basement and was shut down May 18, 2020, due to a power outage.
Provided photo

Monday morning, the Willis Tower was shut down due to a power outage caused by flooding. A photo of the tower’s basement showed extensive flooding.

In response to the flooding, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District announced they 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.

Last Thursday, Chicago when it recorded 3.53 inches of rain — Chicago’s wettest day in May ever, the weather service said.

Over the last four days, Chicago has seen 7.88 inches of rain, making it the 4th wettest stretch in Chicago’s weather history, which goes back to 1871.

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.

City workers remove water from Lower Wacker Drive near Randolph Street Monday morning after overnight flooding.
City workers remove water from Lower Wacker Drive near Randolph Street Monday morning after overnight flooding.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

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.

The DuPage River overflowed its banks Monday and flooded portions of the Naperville Riverwalk.
The DuPage River overflowed its banks Monday and flooded portions of the Naperville Riverwalk.
Rich Hein/Sun-Times