Roads still flooded, rivers close to cresting as Chicago hits wettest May on record

Jessica Villagomez, Liam Ford and Anna Kim, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Weather News

CHICAGO -- Chicago passed the mark for the wettest May on record early Tuesday, as roads throughout the area remained flooded, especially near swollen rivers and creeks that were at or near cresting, according to forecasters.

With .11 inches of rain through 4 a.m. Tuesday, Chicago's monthly rainfall total hit 8.30 inches, passing the record rainfall for May set in 2019, making three years in a row that the month has seen record rainfall, according to the National Weather Service. Tuesday was expected to be the last rainy day until the weekend.

"Cloudy and cool conditions will give way to a warming/drying trend for the remainder of the workweek," according to the weather service. "The warming continues into the holiday weekend, but may be accompanied by periods of thunderstorms."

River flood warnings and other flood advisories peppered northeast Illinois Tuesday afternoon as waves subsided after reaching 4 to 7 feet, causing flooding along Lake Michigan.

In the city, part of Lower Wacker Drive, between Randolph and Harrison streets, was expected to be closed through Saturday "to allow for pumping floodwaters out of the basement of Willis Tower and for the completion of concrete road work on Lower Wacker," according to a release from the city's Transportation Department. Willis Tower remained closed Tuesday, after electricity at the building was shut down because of the intense flooding since last week that sent the Chicago River to the highest levels in 60 years.

In a statement, David Moore, senior vice president of EQ Office said the Fire Department and ComEd continued to manage flooding on lower levels of the former Sears Tower. Water had been pumped out of the loading dock and lower level 2, and after lower level 3 was cleared, "we will be able to fully assess any impact," the statement said."

The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District discharged water to minimize flooding Monday morning, the second time in a week the district has discharged water into Lake Michigan because of flooding.

River levels downtown were below flood stage Tuesday, but the North Branch of the Chicago River was still above flood stage from on the Northwest Side up to suburban Deerfield, according to the weather service. Other area rivers were either at predicted cresting levels or close, with the worst flooding along the Des Plaines River, including in Des Plaines and Riverside, according to the weather service.

Three sites along the river have reached major flooding stages, said Brian Leatherwood, a weather service meteorologist. At one location in Des Plaines, the river reached more than 20 feet, more than 8 feet above flood stage, he said.


The flooding was expected to crest by midmorning Wednesday.

Downstream from Des Plaines in River Grove, days of rain affected the sewer system and waterways had no time to recede, creating the "perfect storm," the village's Fire Chief Sean Flynn said, with east and west sides of the village cut off from one another.

"It is impacting the whole town," said River Grove Public Works Director Brock Leder. "At this point, we are two towns."

Those who live near the river's banks still couldn't leave their homes as of Tuesday, Flynn said.

Roads remained closed Tuesday afternoon across the area, including from First Avenue in Lyons and River Grove, Des Plaines River Road in River Grove, Schiller Park and Des Plaines, as well as 107th Street near U.S. Route 45 in Willow Springs and Southwest Highway near 143rd Street in Orland Park. For more road closures, check

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