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Chicago flooding closes airports and highways, opens sinkhole

Chicago flooding opened a sinkhole, shut down expressways, delayed commuter trains, flooded basements, and caused officials to close schools, cancel flights, and evacuate a hospital.

By Mary WisniewskiReuters / April 18, 2013

A car hook pokes out of a gaping sinkhole that opened up a residential street on Chicago's South Side after a 98-year-old cast iron water main broke during today's massive rain and flooding. The hole was wider than the road and swallowed two parked cars, plus a third being driven when the road caved in.

M. Spencer Green / AP

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Heavy rains and flooding brought havoc to the Chicago area on Thursday, shutting expressways, delaying commuter trains, cancelling flights, flooding basements and closing many suburban schools.

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The National Weather Service issued flash flood warnings lasting into the evening for the entire Chicago area. Between three and seven inches of rain fell throughout the area in the last 24 hours and more was expected, and area rivers continued to rise, according to the weather service.

Flooding shut parts of three major expressways in and out of the city Thursday morning. Many arterial streets and highway ramps remained blocked Thursday afternoon, and police recommended that people limit travel, if possible, during the evening commute.

Major flooding was affecting parts of Des Plaines, Fox, Illinois and DuPage rivers, according to the weather service. The north branch of the Chicago River is already at levels not seen since the major flooding of September 2008, the service said.

Governor Pat Quinn declared a state of emergency for Illinois.

"Our experts at the Illinois Department of Natural Resources are very concerned about the next few days, that certain rivers in our state are at record levels with respect to flooding that we've never seen before," Quinn told a news conference in the Chicago suburb of Elmhurst.

Chicago-area residents have posted photos on social media sites like Facebook of people paddling canoes and inflatable rafts along residential streets. The Chicago Department of Water Management was working to control flooding along the Chicago River on the city's northwest side, using sandbags and setting up concrete barriers.

"This has been an extraordinary storm," said Tom Powers, the department commissioner.

O'Hare International Airport reported 600 flight cancellations Thursday afternoon. Brookfield Zoo, just west of Chicago, closed for only the third time in its 79-year history due to the weather.

SINKHOLE OPENS

The DuPage County Sheriff's Office was using boats to evacuate people from an apartment complex in a western suburb of Chicago. No injuries were reported at the complex.

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