Chicago: Heavy rains and flooding in the Chicago area brought havoc to the morning commute on Thursday, shutting major expressways, delaying commuter trains for hours, cancelling flights and closing dozens of suburban schools. The National Weather Service issued flash flood warnings for parts of 17 Illinois counties, including Chicago and its suburbs, and two northwest Indiana counties. Between three and nearly 7 inches of rain had fallen throughout the Chicago area in the last 24 hours and more was expected later in the day, according to the weather service.
Flooding shut down parts of the Kennedy, Edens and Eisenhower Expressways on Thursday morning, according to Illinois State Police. O'Hare International Airport reported 500 flight cancellations and delays of more than 90 minutes for incoming and outgoing flights. Midway International Airport reported more than 30 cancellations and 30-minute delays.
"There are all kinds of things going on, lots of flooded basements, flooded streets and viaducts," said Chicago Fire Department Chief Kevin MacGregor. The stormy weather was also affecting other parts of the country, including West, Texas, where emergency workers were responding to a fiery, fatal explosion at a fertilizer plant. AccuWeather reported that heavy rain was sweeping into the area, with wind gusts of up to 45 miles per hour.
A moderate risk of severe thunderstorms was predicted into the evening on Thursday for parts of Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois and Indiana, according to the NWS Storm Prediction Center. A spokesman for Metra, the Chicago commuter rail service, said three Union Pacific Lines suffered severe delays due to a loss of power at a "complex set of switches" outside a major downtown train station after a lightning strike.
Power has been restored, but trains were getting through at "much slower rates than normal," spokesman Tom Miller said. "We're playing catch-up." Passengers on their morning commute waited for up to two hours on trains backed up outside Ogilvie Transportation Center in the pouring rain, many of them within sight of their downtown offices.
On the city's South Side, a sinkhole opened up on a residential street, swallowing three cars, according to Officer Mike Sullivan of the Chicago Police Department. One person was hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries. Officials in the Chicago suburb of Lombard declared a state of emergency due to flooding and told people to avoid traveling.