Lake County was declared a disaster area on Thursday, with the Des Plaines and Fox rivers expected to crest above major flood levels on Saturday.
County Board Chairman Aaron Lawlor signed the disaster proclamation after many north suburban communities experienced significant flooding this week when up to 7 inches of rain fell in some areas Tuesday night. The heavy rainfall compromised roadways and other public works infrastructure.
The proclamation will be sent to Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Illinois Emergency Management Agency.
Runoff from the rain is expected to cause near-record-breaking flooding in areas along both rivers in the north suburbs, and a flood warning remains in effect until early next week along the Des Plaines River in Gurnee, Lincolnshire, Des Plaines, River Forest and Russell, according to the National Weather Service.
As of Friday morning, that river was at 19.88 feet in Des Plaines and was expected to crest at near 20 feet by early Monday, according to the weather service. The record was set on April 19, 2013, at 20.9 feet. Flood stage is considered 15 feet.
Along the Fox River, a flood warning remains in effect “until further notice” in Algonquin and Montgomery, the weather service said. The river reached 11.12 feet in Algonquin on Friday morning, and was projected to rise to 12.9 feet by Tuesday morning. The record for the Fox River in that area was 12.7 feet, set on April 23, 2013. Flood stage is 9.5 feet.
The rivers will generally continue to rise as water drains from smaller tributaries into the larger main stem rivers. The weather service warned people to avoid walking or driving through floodwaters, and to move immediately to higher ground.
Thursday night, the Chicago Botanic Garden, 1000 Lake Cook Road in Glencoe, announced it would close Friday due to flooding of a watershed of the Skokie River that runs through it. High water levels made getting to the garden unsafe to the public, according to a statement. The plants in the garden, which were designed to withstand flooding and provide flood control benefits to downstream communities, were not expected to be impacted.
As of Thursday, River Road was closed from Minor to Algonquin in Des Plaines due to standing water. Flooding in Grayslake caused closures on Route 83 between Center and Route 120; on Washington between Route 45 and Route 83; on Buckley between Route 83 and Casey; on Atkinson between Route 120 and Center; and on Route 120 between Porter and Route 134, according to Grayslake police.
West Park Avenue reopened east of Route 41 in Highland Park on Friday, as did part of U.S. 41 in North Chicago, the Lake County Department of Transportation reported. In Gurnee, Grand was closed Thursday morning between Riverside and Skokie Highway.
The village of Libertyville declared a state of emergency after standing water closed several roads in Libertyville, including parts of U.S. 45 and Buckley Road.
Floodwaters washed out a large culvert and caused a huge sinkhole on a road Wednesday in north suburban Gages Lake. Gages Lake Road is closed between Route 2 and Hunt Club Road, according to the transportation division.
Maintenance crews realized the culvert was in distress and closed the road prior to the culvert collapsing. It will remain closed until the culvert is replaced and pavement repairs completed. No time estimate was given for that work. Traffic was detoured from Hunt Club Road to Route 120, and then to Route 21.
In Wadsworth, Russell Road between Kilbourne Road and I-94 is closed. The village is calling on residents and businesses in unincorporated Newport Township to help with the filling and placement of sandbags to protect property and buildings from rising water levels.
Sandbagging is taking place at the Newport Township Road District building on the south side of Russell Road, just west of the Canadian Pacific Railroad.
The good news? Meteorologists predict the area won’t see more rain until the weekend.
“We’re done, we’re going to be dry for the next couple of days,” National Weather Service Meteorologist Kevin Birk said Thursday, adding that the next chance of thunderstorms isn’t until Saturday night, when there’s a 40 percent chance of showers.
Despite service disruptions early Wednesday, the normal Metra weekday schedule had resumed on the Milwaukee District North Line by Wednesday afternoon. But trains may be delayed because of speed restrictions in the areas affected by flooding, according to Metra spokesman Michael Gillis.
Additionally, airlines had canceled hundreds of flights by Wednesday afternoon at both O’Hare International Airport and Midway International Airport. As of 6 a.m. Thursday, 36 flights were canceled at O’Hare, and flight delays were averaging less than 15 minutes, according to the city’s Department of Aviation. At Midway, two flight were canceled and delays were averaging less than 15 minutes.
At the height of the storms, more than 51,000 ComEd customers lost power, according to a ComEd spokesman. As of 10 a.m. Friday, about 700 customers were without power, most in Lake County.
Amtrak Hiawatha Service to Milwaukee was also suspended Wednesday morning but was restored by Wednesday afternoon, according to a statement from Amtrak.
High winds from the storms overnight knocked down trees and power lines, causing power outages in northwest suburban Elgin, the city said in a statement. The area between the Grand Victoria Casino and Liberty Street was affected by power outages, as was the area between Wilcox Avenue and Liberty south of Walnut Avenue.
Lake Forest Hospital in north suburban Lake Forest transferred 70 patients to other facilities after losing power, the hospital said in a statement Wednesday night. Power was restored about 8:45 p.m., but the hospital will not see patients on Thursday.
The city of Des Plaines offered residents multiple locations to find sandbags via a map on the city’s website.
Oakton Community College’s Des Plaines campus will also close until Monday due to flooding of the Des Plaines River.
The campus at 1600 E. Golf Road will close for all classes and activities, school officials said. The campus in Skokie will open Thursday but close Friday and over the weekend.
The weather meant a very long commute Wednesday to a doctor’s appointment downtown for Henry Yong, who boarded a Metra train at Round Lake about 5:45 a.m. — a train that sat near Libertyville for two hours, waiting for crews to remove that downed tree on the tracks.
He arrived at Union Station about 90 minutes later than scheduled. For his return trip, he said, he’ll take a different line to Grays Lake, then use Uber to get back to his car at the Round Lake station.
“Everybody was pretty calm,” Yong said of the long wait. “It’s not like we could do anything about it.”
The Mundelein Seminary tweeted that its campus was closed to the public due to “heavy rains, flooding, downed trees and other dangerous weather conditions.”
Also closing was Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire, which canceled Wednesday evening’s performances of “The Bridges of Madison County.”
The American Red Cross opened shelters for those affected by the flooding at Magee Middle School in Round Lake Beach; the Foss Park Youth Center in North Chicago; The Chapel in Grayslake, and the North Park Village Nature Center at 5801 N. Pulaski in Chicago.
Residents in need of lodging, food or mental health support can stop by any of the shelters, or call (847) 220-7495.
“The unfortunate flooding that occurred through northern Illinois has impacted hundreds of residents,” Celena Roldan, CEO of the Chicago and Northern Illinois Red Cross, said in a statement.
For more on suburban flooding, see coverage in the Daily Herald, a Sun-Times news partner.
Contributing: Amanda Svachula