Updated 07/01/14 – 3 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — The I-190 entrance to O’Hare International Airport reopened Tuesday morning, after it was shut down for several hours at Mannheim Road when the viaduct flooded due to Monday night’s storms.
Torrential rains and strong winds pummeled the Chicago area Monday night, as two powerful storm cells swept across the northern part of the state. Severe storms cracked trees and tore down power lines all over the area, forced airlines to cancel hundreds of flights, and left many streets and homes flooded. The torrential rains have prompted flood warnings for many areas across northern and central Illinois, as well as along the Mississippi River.
Some of the flooding from the storms caused backups for travelers headed to O’Hare International Airport – even discounting the hundreds of flights that were canceled or delayed due to the weather. Some drivers were stranded for up to two hours along the I-190 entrance to the airport, after all but one lane of the road flooded under the Mannheim Road bridge. While the viaduct was flooded, authorities were allowing only one car venture through at a time, letting drivers slowly pass through the standing water.
Other cars were diverted off I-190 and onto Mannheim Road. The big mess created a one-mile traffic backup on outbound I-190, from Mannheim Road to River Road. It made for a frustrating morning for travelers and O’Hare workers headed to the airport.
The traffic nightmare prompted many people to get out of their cars or taxis and try walking to O’Hare, but they were turned back when they reached the point where the road was flooded. Some then tried to get in other taxis already in line to get to the airport.
The I-190 lanes exiting the airport reopened by around 6:30 a.m., but the entrance lanes did not fully reopen until around 7:45 a.m. By then, many who had been stuck in traffic already had missed their flights.
Frustrations for O’Hare travelers continued at the crowded terminal as plenty of others already were scrambling to rebook flights that were canceled during the storms Monday night.
Meantime, the storms also caused widespread damage to trees throughout the Chicago area, knocking out power to hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses. At the height of the storm, more than 350,000 ComEd customers lost power. Hundreds of ComEd crews were working to restore power throughout the area.
As of 3:00 p.m., n 153,000 ComEd customers were still without power.
CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli reports the southern suburbs appeared to be hit worst by damage from fallen trees, knocking out power to tens of thousands of homes and businesses. Straight line winds were measured at speeds of up to 85 mph during the storm.
In Midlothian, near the intersection of 147th Street and Kilbourn Avenue, several trees were knocked down during the storms.
Several large healthy trees along Kilbourne Avenue were completely uprooted by the storms. One tree service official said it’s the worst damage he’s seen in eight years, when a microburst hit south suburban Hickory Hills.
“These are definitely trees that are in their 40s and 50s, that have been around, and just blew over like a toothpick; and that’s all it takes is a good microburst like last night to just blow them over,” said Mike Baio, with John’s Pro Tree Service.
The sound of wood chippers was constant Monday morning near 147th and Kilbourne as crews got rid of the downed trees, some of them as tall as 50 feet.
A woman who lives nearby said she was out in her yard at the time, attending to her pool, when powerful winds knocked her into the back of her house. Then a tree came crashing down in her back yard.
Officials said many trees were down all through Midlothian and other southern suburbs.
In Calumet City, a tree fell onto a home on Sibley Boulevard, causing significant damage. No one was hurt, despite the fact people were inside the home when it came crashing down.
The National Weather Service planned to send storm damage survey teams to parts of LaSalle, Kankakee, Grundy, and Will counties to determine if any of the damage was caused by tornadoes.
Overnight, massive amounts of rain also flooded neighborhood streets and viaducts, including in Lakeview, where many residents had water flowing along sidewalks and pouring down steps into their basements.
Although it was fairly dry at the intersection of Pine Grove and Diversey early Tuesday, around midnight, water rushed like a river down stairwells after streets and sidewalks both flooded, and water seeped into homes and businesses.
Though standing water was pretty high on the street, some drivers chanced it and slowly drove down the flooded street.
Rick Fistler, a clerk at a nearby 7-Eleven, said it was a tiring day at work after rain seeped into the convenience store.
“I got here about 11:30 last night, and the guy that I was relieving said that it had just happened. So it was about an inch-and-a-half of water all over the floor, and all in the back, coming up out of the toilet back in the back,” he said. “It took me about four hours to mop it up.”
A number of viaducts also flooded in the Gold Coast near Lake Shore Drive and LaSalle Drive. Some vehicles got stuck in the deep water when they risked trying to get through the flooding.
The good news for the morning commute was water levels have dropped, and many streets that were flooded overnight have since cleared.
The storms also prompted airlines to cancel more than 450 flights at O’Hare. At Midway International Airport, Southwest Airlines – the largest carrier – canceled most of its flights Monday night due to the storms. As of 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, airlines had canceled 125 flights at O’Hare, and about a dozen at Midway.