Storms flood streets and expressways, knock out power to 15,000

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One man was killed as thunderstorms lashed the Chicago area Wednesday night. The storms flooded streets, expressways and viaducts; left 15,000 without power, and toppled seven cars of a freight train on the city's West Side.

The storms dumped one to three inches of rain across the area. Downtown Chicago saw three inches, according to the National Weather Service.

A 24-year-old construction worker who was relining a sewer at Rockwell and Elston in Chicago died after rising waters swept him away. Fire personnel using a remote-control camera found the man's body about 11 p.m. Wednesday, Fire Media Affairs director Larry Langford said.

A flash-flood warning was in effect until 2:30 a.m. Thursday for east-central Cook County and Lake County in Indiana, where numerous roads and viaducts flooded, the weather service said.

As of 10:15 p.m. Wednesday, most of the rain was out of the area.

"It looks like it's going to stay quiet for a few hours," said David Beachler, a weather service meteorologist. "The heavy rainfall has pushed east of the city and has actually diminished. . . . There may be some additional showers and thunderstorms later through the night but we're not anticipating it to be nearly as intense as it was earlier."

Parts of the Bronzeville neighborhood on the South Side were hit with more than three inches of rain Wednesday night, Beachler said. Nearly two inches of rain fell in south suburban Burnham in about 55 minutes, and quarter-size hail fell in northwest suburban Des Plaines, according to the weather service.

At the storm's height, only one lane of traffic was making it through parts of the Kennedy and Dan Ryan expressways, Illinois State Police said. Both directions of the Eisenhower Expy. were flooded between Ashland and Western.

The water had receded and all lanes on area expressways were open late Wednesday, State Police said.

About 15,000 customers in northeastern Illinois lost power because of the storm, and about 12,600 of them were still in the dark about 10:30 p.m., a ComEd representative said. About 9,900 were in Chicago and the near suburbs; 2,300 in the northern suburbs, and about 290 in the south suburbs.

The University of Illinois Medical Center at Chicago had some water damage from the thunderstorms. Hematology equipment was damaged in one lab that was hit particularly hard with water, hospital spokeswoman Sherri McGinnis Gonzalez said. It was unclear whether the equipment was permanently broken, and whether the water came is as a result of flooding or a leaking roof, Gonzalez said. The water damage did not affect normal hospital operations.

"Basically, right now we're dealing with cleanup," Gonzalez said.

On the West Side, strong winds from the storms blew over seven cars of a Union Pacific freight train on a branch line near Kedzie Avenue, railroad spokesman Mark Davis said. No one was hurt, but Metra trains on the nearby Union-Pacific West line were briefly halted because of the derailment, according to Metra and Union-Pacific officials.

Other Metra riders on the Electric District line were up to 80 minutes late Wednesday night because of the bad weather, while a North Central Service train to north suburban Antioch was 30 minutes late because of debris on the track.

Several CTA bus routes across the city were temporarily delayed because of flooded viaducts.

Pink Line trains were briefly halted at Damen because of debris on the tracks, but service resumed late Wednesday with residual delays, the CTA said.

Airlines canceled about 50 flights at O'Hare Airport because of the storm, the city's Department of Aviation said. Flights at O'Hare and Midway airports were running about an hour behind schedule Wednesday evening.


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