Updated 05/13/14 – 9:20 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — Flights in and out of O’Hare and Midway international airports are resuming after a ground halt was ordered when the local radar facility was evacuated because of smoke inside the building.
The Elgin TRACON (Terminal Radar Approach Control) facility was evacuated at about 11:30 a.m., according to a statement from the FAA. Elgin police said there was smoke coming from a faulty motor in an HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) unit at the facility.
As a result of the evacuation of the Elgin TRACON, a ground stop was issued at O’Hare International Airport and Midway International Airport, meaning all flights in and out of the airports were halted.
According to the Chicago Department of Aviation, 1000 flights at O’Hare and 125 at Midway were cancelled and both airports experienced significant delays as of 8:30 p.m.
All TRACON operations were transferred to the Chicago En Route Center in Aurora.
TRACON workers were allowed to return to the building around 1 p.m. after firefighters deemed the building was safe and there was no fire, but it was unclear how soon air traffic would resume at O’Hare and Midway.
Long lines of airplanes could be seen sitting on the taxiways at O’Hare as they waited to take off. Flights that were waiting to land at the airports were being diverted to other airports as needed.
“This is both airports, so it’s a big problem,” said Joe Schwieterman, an aviation expert with DePaul University.
Heidi Werner was one of many passengers stuck on a plane because of the ground stop in Chicago. She was flying home after several months in Brazil, but her flight to O’Hare was diverted to Milwaukee.
Her father was at O’Hare waiting to pick her up. Ironically, he works near the Milwaukee airport, but drove to Chicago on Tuesday to pick her up at O’Hare.
The Northwestern softball team was stuck on the tarmac at O’Hare. They were on the way to their NCAA tournament game in Seattle.
They finally got some good news and were able to get off the ground.
CBS 2’s Mai Martinez reports many at Midway seemed to take in stride once they found out what was causing the ground stop, but for Dewayne Williams and his girlfriend, Laura Carroll the ground stop couldn’t have come at a worse time. After 11-years of dating, they were heading to Las Vegas to get married.
“They told us at first we were going to get a later flight and now it’s cancelled completely so we don’t know what’s going on,” said Williams.
Carroll said she was upset after finding out her flight had been canceled.
“I didn’t want to be in the airport all afternoon. You know it’s just bad luck. Hopefully we can get out of here though,” she said.
Carroll says they were rebooked on a flight out of Midway at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.