Chicago flooding: City cleans up after torrential rain leads to flash floods

Chicago Riverwalk flooding recedes Monday, crews clean up debris

Tuesday, July 4, 2023
Chicago Riverwalk reopens after torrential rain leads to flash floods
Some people are still cleaning up Monday after record Sunday rainfall shut down roads and the Riverwalk, stranded drivers and flooded basements.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago is cleaning up after torrential rain led to flooding problems Sunday.

Swim bans have been lifted at almost all Chicago beaches as of 3 p.m.

The bans were initially put in place due to unsafe water quality from elevated levels of bacteria after the rain forced the city to reverse the flow of the Chicago River into Lake Michigan to prevent downtown flooding.

As of 4 p.m. Monday, a swim advisory was still in place at Foster Beach, Rainbow Beach and South Shore Beach, while the only remaining swim ban was at Marion Mahony Griffin Beach.

Sunday's flooding meant city officials had to reverse the flow of the river into Lake Michigan. The flooded Riverwalk had receded by Monday, and the city was cleaning up the leftover debris and muck.

By Monday night, the city reopened the eastern half of the Riverwalk but the portion west of Clark Street remains closed.

WATCH: Mayor Brandon Johnson addresses dangerous flooding

Mayor Brandon Johnson got emotional on Monday as he addressed dangerous Chicago flooding.

So much water came down Sunday that locks in Wilmette and Navy Pier had to be opened to relieve pressure on the system, but it wasn't enough to prevent water from backing up into at least 2,000 homes in the city, primarily on the West Side.

"I'm angry but I don't know who to point the finger at, me or the city," said Al Thomspon, whose West Side home flooded Sunday afternoon. "I don't know. I'm just very disappointed and upset. I mean, I wake up yesterday to my whole basement being flooded."

The two bedrooms where his sons sleep are ruined. Two hot water heaters and his furnace were also destroyed by the water that overwhelmed three sump pumps he bought after it started flooding.

Chicago is cleaning up after torrential rain led to flooding problems Sunday, particularly for many residents on the city's West Side.

Mayor Brandon Johnson and Alderwoman Emma Mitts toured parts of the 37th ward, talking to residents to see the impact first hand.

"And we're not just showing up to say hi, we're showing us to hear and listen. And again we have the full force of government on display today," Johnson said. The mayor is a resident of the city's Austin community.

Tim Williams said his basement filled up with nearly three feet of water. He said he's never seen so much rain come down.

"I still have to get someone down here to clean this all out. My hot water tank is out my heater is out, freezers, refrigerators, everything's destroyed," he said.

"We had USGS gauges with eight and a half inches of rain," said Ed Staudacher, assistant director of maintenance for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District. "That's it, it was a large amount of rain in a short amount of time that short timespan also has a big impact because you get so much all at once. There's nowhere for that rain to go."

On Sunday evening, in the 4600-block of West Roosevelt Road, cars were stranded after trying to make it through with several feet of water still in the roadway Sunday night. At one point Sunday at least seven vehicles and their passengers were trapped in a flooded viaduct near I-290 at 5th Avenue and Cicero Avenue.

Katera Fisher had to be towed after her SUV couldn't make it through the rising water.

"I went and my car just started floating, and I said, 'Oh, snap.' So, my first reaction was to try and get out of the car. I opened the door, and the water started flooding my feet," Fisher said.

OEMC said from Sunday into Monday morning, they received 59 calls of flooded viaducts, 1,485 calls of water in basements and 396 calls of water on the street.

Rainfall totals Sunday:

O'Hare: 3.35 inches

Midway 4.68 inches

Berwyn - 8.96 inches

Cicero - 8.60 inches

Garfield Park - 8/12 inches

Lincoln Park - 7.89 inches

Evanston - 7.09 inches

McKinley Park 6.62 inches

Wheeling- 1.96 inches

Waukegan -.67 inches

Valparaiso - .30 inches

Aurora - 1.54 inches

The mayor's office released a statement reminding people to stay off the flooded roads and asking residents to be mindful of their water use.

"To assist with moving water into the wastewater system, please do not use extra water to shower, do laundry or dishes while experiencing storm conditions. As our climate changes and we see heavier rain events in compressed periods of time, it is difficult for our sewer system to move the water efficiently. While it may present a temporary inconvenience, it is better for water to pool on the street than in residents' basements," the statement said, in part.

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