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updated: 7/28/2011 11:24 AM

Forecast: More rain could mean more flooding in next 24 hours

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  • A thunderstorm rolls across Boone County Wednesday morning after passing through the Rockford area. The storm was tracking toward McHenry County and northern Lake County, producing heavy rains and lightning.

       A thunderstorm rolls across Boone County Wednesday morning after passing through the Rockford area. The storm was tracking toward McHenry County and northern Lake County, producing heavy rains and lightning.
    Christopher Hankins | Staff Photographer

 
 

If a weekend of floods that ruined carpets and furniture weren't enough, violent storms with heavy rain struck again Wednesday night and into this morning less than a day after more than 4 inches of rain fell in some Northern suburbs.

To top it off, weather officials are warning that if more than an inch and half of rain falls in the next 24 hours, more floodwaters could be recorded along the Des Plaines River.

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Bill Morris, a hydraulist with the National Weather Service, said the Des Plaines River could again overflow its banks if more than an inch and a half of rain falls over the next 24 hours.

"Or, if that 2-inches comes over two hours instead of six hours, it'll cause the river to rise faster than anticipated, and could lead to additional problems," he said.

As of Thursday at 11 a.m., Morris said the Des Plaines River is should not overflow its banks despite about 4 inches of rain dumping into the Des Plaines and nearby tributaries during the heavy storms Wednesday night and Thursday morning.

He said Gurnee is in the most immediate danger, however, saying the river will rise to the edge of flood stage sometime Thursday evening. But, he added, that estimate includes the possibility that 1.5 inches of rain falls across the area within the next 24 hours. However, if more rain falls or if the rain falls faster than expected, that figure could rise beyond anticipated flood levels.

He added the river along Russell Road near Zion is experiencing the same issue, while the river in Des Plaines should crest at about a half inch below flood stage.

"But, that forecast is based on the rain that fell in the last 24 hours and with another inch and a half of rain falling in the next 24 hours," he said. "It all depends on how much rain actually falls."

Because of the issues, a flash flood watch remains in effect over the Des Plaines River until 1 p.m. today for Cook, DeKalb, DuPage, Kane, and McHenry counties, according to the National Weather Service.

Lake County, which bore the brunt of the storms Wednesday night and Thursday morning, is under a flood warning until 3:30 p.m. today as small streams including Mill Creek rose rapidly during the heavy rainfall.

At 9 a.m. Thursday, ComEd reported 60,000 customers remained without power, with 16,000 out in the northern region. In addition, 21,000 remained without power in the western region, while 16,000 remained out in the Chicago and vicinity.

Officials said a tornado touched down in Galena just before 8 p.m. as the storm began to make its way across the state. The same thunderstorm ripped through Rockford and reached the Chicago area at about 11 p.m.

Damage was heavy in the Carol Stream and Bloomingdale area as tree limbs fell when the storm rolled in, while lightning struck and sparked fires in four houses and one government center late last night.

Two of the residential fires were in Schaumburg, a third was in Fox River Grove, while the fourth was in Highland Park, officials said.

The Aurora Parks and Recreation Administration Building was also hit by lightning overnight, causing about $250,000 in damages to the building and an additional $50,000 in damages to the building's content's, officials said.

Lightning struck the building at about 12:20 a.m. Thursday, said city spokesman Dan Ferrelli, but no injuries were reported and the building was empty.

The heavy rainfall pushed July, 2011 into the record books, making this the wettest July on record since 1889.

This months rainfall totals have reached 9.75 inches, officials said, eclipsing the previous total of 9.56 inches.

The first wave of storms is expected to stop this morning, but then strong thunderstorms are expected to develop over eastern Iowa and northwestern Illinois and move into the Chicago area sometime Thursday afternoon, said meteorologist Rose Sengenberger of the National Weather Service.

She added, due to the humidity and moisture present in the air, if a thunderstorm does strike, it has the potential to produce heavy rainfall.

Rain totals from Wednesday's storms were 4.37 inches in Wadsworth, 3.57 inches in Beach Park, 3.11 inches in Zion and 2.76 inches in Waukegan.

Meteorologists are warning motorists, especially in Lake County, not to drive through water-covered roadways as flooding is imminent if not already occurring in many areas. Most flood-related deaths occur in vehicles trying to pass through flooded roadways, according to the weather service.

"Some of the thunderstorms will produce very heavy downpours," according to a weather service report. "This area has already experienced very heavy rainfall in recent days, and any additional heavy rain could lead to rapid flooding,"

More than 100 flights were canceled at O'Hare International Airport due to Wednesday morning's storms, and although no flights were canceled at Midway, the airport was facing delays due to the rain, according to the Chicago Department of Aviation.

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