Chicago sinkhole swallows 3 cars; state of emergency declared

A state of emergency has been declared in Illinois after a major storm in the Chicago area brought flooding and caused a sinkhole to open that swallowed three cars.

A major storm that caused a sinkhole to open that swallowed three cars in Chicago Thursday morning was continuing to bring weather and transportation woes to the city.

Governor Pat Quinn declared a state of emergency for Illinois.

"Our experts at the Illinois Department of Natural Resources are very concerned about the next few days, that certain rivers in our state are at record levels with respect to flooding that we've never seen before," Quinn told a news conference in the Chicago suburb of Elmhurst.

Major flooding was affecting parts of Des Plaines, Fox, Illinois and DuPage rivers, according to the National Weather Service. The north branch of the Chicago River is already at levels not seen since the major flooding of September 2008, the service said.

The car-swallowing sinkhole opened on Chicago's Southeast Side, WGN-TV reported early Thursday morning.

One person was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital in serious to critical condition, the Chicago Fire Department told the news station.

The injured man was driving when the road buckled and caved in. He was hospitalized with non-life threatening injuries. The other two cars were parked.

According to a report by the Chicago Tribune, the fire department responded around 5:30 a.m., and two cars were already inside the hole. A third one reportedly slid into it after crews arrived.

The Midwest was overwhelmed by weather Thursday, including torrential rains that caused floods and transportation woes such as the sinkhole in Chicago.

Chicago sinkhole: Maps showing the location of the Chicago sinkhole.Bing Maps: MSN News

The city was pummeled by an all-night rainstorm. Flooding there has forced authorities to close sections of several major expressways.

The National Weather Service issued flash flood warnings lasting into the evening for the entire Chicago area. Between three and seven inches of rain fell throughout the area in the last 24 hours and more was expected, and area rivers continued to rise, according to the weather service.

Many of Chicago's arterial streets and highway ramps remained blocked Thursday afternoon, and police recommended that people limit travel, if possible, during the evening commute.

The storm-swollen Chicago River was being allowed to flow into Lake Michigan, in part to relieve sewer backups downtown and in neighborhoods. The river was diverted away from the lake more than a century ago to keep pollution out of the lake, the source of the city's drinking water.

Meanwhile, workers were furiously filling sandbags and putting up barricades along the north branch of the Chicago River in the Albany Park neighborhood.

Making flood concerns even worse: Forecasters are calling for the heavy rain to continue in many places into Friday morning.


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