Nearly 9 inches of rain reported in some areas as record-setting storm stops trains, closes highways and floods homes

By Monday morning, all expressways were open, Metro was running on all lines and only a stretch of the CTA Pink Line between Pulaski and 54th/Cermak was closed. And NASCAR was able to finish the Grant Park 220 race, though 25 laps fewer than planned.

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Manuel Diaz and Christian Reyes ride a raft in the streets of Cicero during a rainstorm July 2.

Manuel Diaz, 24, left, and Christian Reyes, 23, right, got a rubber raft and rode the rapids in Cicero.

Mohammad Samra/Sun-Times

Nearly 9 inches of rain were reported in some places of the Chicago area Sunday, a record-setting storm that forced the CTA and Metra to shut down some train lines, closed some expressways, flooded viaducts throughout Chicago, and played havoc with the NASCAR race in Grant Park.

By Monday morning, all expressways were open, Metra was running on all lines and only a stretch of the CTA Pink Line between Pulaski and 54th/Cermak was closed because of track conditions. And NASCAR was able to finish the Grant Park 220 race, though 25 laps fewer than planned.

O’Hare International Airport recorded 3.35 inches of rain Sunday, shattering Chicago’s previous record for July 2 of 2.06 inches set in 1982, according to the National Weather Service.

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It was the highest daily rainfall total to be observed at O’Hare since May 2020, when 3.53 inches of rain was recorded on May 14 and 3.11 inches on May 17.

But the record-breaking number wasn’t close to the downpour in west suburban Berwyn, which saw nearly 9 inches of rain, according to preliminary numbers released by the weather service. Garfield Park on the West Side of Chicago got 8.12 inches, Lincoln Park 7.89 inches, Evanston 7.09 inches, Oak Park 6.04 inches, Midway Airport 4.68 inches.

The weather service issued a warning for “significant, life-threatening flooding.” The worst occurred on the west and southwest sides of Chicago and in the near west and southwest suburbs, according to the National Weather Service. Video showed people being rescued from their cars at a viaduct at Cicero and Grand in the city.

Flash flood warnings for Chicago, Oak Lawn and Cicero expired at 6:30 p.m. Sunday as the rains started to taper off. But the weather service issued a flood warning until 1 a.m. Monday, as standing water remained on roadways that will take time to recede.

The weather service also cautioned that Chicago River levels were dangerously high. “Persons along rivers and streams in the warned area should take immediate precautions to protect life and property,” it said. Low-lying parts of the Riverwalk downtown were covered by water.

The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago said it had begun reversing the river toward the lake about 4 p.m. to ease flooding.

More than 200 Chicago residents submitted complaints of water in their basement to 311 on Sunday, according to the city’s website. Most of the complaints were from the West and Southwest sides of the city.

The weather service listed nearly 20 reports of flash flooding throughout the Chicago area.

Blue Line trains were halted between UIC/Halsted and Forest Park shortly after 11 a.m. and began to run again about 3:25 p.m. before trains were again halted between UIC/Halsted and Kedzie less than half an hour later, according to the CTA.

Pink Line trains between Pulaski and 54th/Cermak were also shut down.

Interstate 290 eastbound at Des Plaines Avenue was closed and was “impassible” as of 2:30 p.m., according to officials. Interstate 55 was temporarily closed as well, Illinois State Police said. Both were open by the Monday morning rush.

plow Interstate 290 rain flooding Chicago

A plow clears water in the closed eastbound lanes of Interstate 290 amid record rainfall Sunday.

Nader Issa/Sun-Times

At the height of the storm, more than 7,000 ComEd customers were without power as of 1:05 p.m. Most of the power had been restored by Monday morning.

As the rains let up, the NASCAR Grant Park 220 race began at 5:37 p.m., about 90 minutes later than the original start time after hours of delays and confusion due to flood warnings, which forced officials to call the weekend’s Xfinity Series race before its completion.

At 7:20 p.m., NASCAR told teams that the Grant Park 220 would end after 75 laps instead of 100 because of the looming darkness. Sunset was at 8:29 p.m.

car road flooded viaduct North Sacramento Boulevard

A driver attempts to turn around rather than go through a flooded viaduct near the 300 block of North Sacramento Boulevard on Sunday, July 2, 2023.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Manuel Diaz and Christian Reyes have been kayaking at a lake in Naperville for two years, but they decided to take to the flooded streets of Cicero for their latest adventure Sunday.

The pair were driving near Abe Lincoln Elementary School and noticed the streets were flooded. They then made the split-second decision to buy an inflatable kayak and have a joyride.

“We just took advantage of the weather conditions today,” Diaz, 24, said.

Rafael Ibarra’s car stalled from the high water levels.

He was on his way home to Little Village when he lost control of his vehicle.

“This is the most water I’ve ever seen here,” Ibarra, 23, said. “In the middle of it, my car kind of stalled out.”

Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications said he had “all available flood mitigation equipment on the streets and is prioritizing assistance to areas where motorists are stuck in flooded viaducts.

“Residents can call 3-1-1, visit 311.chicago.org or use the CHI311 app to report water in your basement, standing water in the street or viaduct flooding,” the agency said.

The MWRD and OEMC advised residents to delay baths and showers, flush toilets less frequently and wait before running a dishwasher or washing machine to prevent overtaxing the sewer system. Heavy rains combined with typical daily water flow can overwhelm the system and can cause more flooding.

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Streets near Lincoln Elementary in Cicero were flooded on Sunday.

Mohammad Samra/Sun-Times

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Manuel Diaz and Christian Reyes bought an inflatable kayak Sunday and took a joyride on the flooded streets of Cicero.

Mohammad Samra/Sun-Times

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