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Heavy Storms Cause Power Outages, Flooding In Chicago Area

An SUV is stuck in a flooded viaduct near 43rd Street and Oakley Avenue, after heavy thunderstorms soaked the Chicago area overnight. (Credit: Susanna Song/CBS 2)

An SUV is stuck in a flooded viaduct near 43rd Street and Oakley Avenue, after heavy thunderstorms soaked the Chicago area overnight. (Credit: Susanna Song/CBS 2)

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Updated 05/29/13 – 11:04 a.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) – Thousands of homes and businesses in the Chicago area were left in the dark overnight, and many local streets were flooded, after heavy thunderstorms soaked the region late Tuesday and early Wednesday.

The storms brought large amounts of lightning and wind gusts of up to 60 mph in some areas, bringing down trees and power lines.

Approximately 21,000 ComEd customers were left without power at the height of the storms, with about half of those outages in the southern suburbs. However, by 10 a.m., fewer than 2,800 customers were without power; 1,200 of them in the city, 1,400 in the south suburbs, 90 in the northern suburbs, and 80 in the western suburbs.

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According to the National Weather Service, Midway International Airport got nearly two inches of rain in about an hour Tuesday night. An inch of rain fell in about half an hour in the North Riverside area.

Midway also lost power to some ticket counters, the food court, and the security checkpoint for a little more than half an hour. According to the city’s Aviation Department, there was a “power bump” at the terminal at about 8:20 p.m. All emergency lighting was working, and there was no impact to the airfield. Power was restored by 9 p.m.

It was not immediately clear if that outage was related to the storms, which had started moving through the city at about the same time.

Several viaducts and underpasses also flooded during the storm. One SUV was left stranded in nearly three feet of water in a viaduct near 43rd Street and Oakley Avenue in the Back of the Yards neighborhood.

Even after that vehicle got stuck, other drivers dared to try to drive through the standing water, despite city crews putting up yellow caution tape and barricades.

At 47th Street and Archer Avenue, along the border between Archer Heights and Brighton Park, several other cars got stuck in a flooded viaduct after they tried driving through the deep water.

Water went up to the windshield of one car after it tried to pass through a flooded viaduct, and the car was bounced around in the standing water as garbage trucks passed through in the oncoming lanes, pushing waves against the stranded car.

A tow truck driver had to wade through standing water to get to another flooded car, and when he opened the door after pulling it out of the viaduct, water poured out onto the street.

Wednesday morning, city crews came out to unclog catch basins that had become blocked by trash and debris.

“There’s a lot of dirt on the CBs. So it’s compressed. It’s not letting water down. We’re trying to locate them, so we could pop them up [and] water will rush down, but it’s going to take a while, because the sewer’s so small,” Water Management Department worker Steven Rodriguez said.

He was out of breath, because it took him three tries before he was able to unhook a catch basin cover at 43rd and Oakley and pop it open.

“When we find them, we try to pop them open, and be very careful, because you can get sucked in” due to the pressure, Rodriguez said.

Local residents said flooding is a frequent problem when heavy rain hits the area around the flooded viaducts at 43rd and Oakley and 47th and Archer.

“Actually, every time that it rains kind of hard, it does happen here in this neighborhood. Right here on 47th always gets flooded, as well as our basements in the houses,” South Side resident Jasmine said.

More rain moved through the Chicago area after dawn on Wednesday, and scattered thunderstorms were likely Wednesday afternoon, though not as powerful as Tuesday night’s storm. Skies should clear for the most part Wednesday evening, though the heat and humidity could create some brief “pop up” storms.

CBS 2 Meteorologist Megan Glaros reports more passing storms were possible again every day through Saturday, though things should be cooler and drier starting Sunday.