The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Thirty years ago

On 13 April 1992, damage to a tunnel under the Chicago River caused a billion liters of water to flood the Loop—entirely underground:

The Great Chicago Flood paralyzed downtown — shutting down power and prompting an evacuation that would affect financial markets and bring business to a halt for days. Those who were there vividly recall that spring day when 124 million gallons of water from the Chicago River flowed into the city’s maze of underground freight tunnels and building basements, turning the Loop into a ghost town.

The disastrous flood that hit downtown Chicago on Monday began as a small and seemingly harmless leak that was detected at least a week earlier by city workers.

The seepage was considered routine at the time it was spotted, and plans were made to make repairs from within the tunnel.

But before the work began, the leak grew into a flood that sent more than 250 million gallons of murky Chicago River water coursing through a turn-of-the-century underground tunnel system and up into the subgrade levels of buildings throughout downtown.

I was in New York at the time, marveling at how effectively the city evacuated the area. By the time I got back to Chicago most of the damage had been cleaned up.

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