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Flash flooding snarls Chicago traffic

Chicago underpasses were blocked by Thursday's flooding  

By Jeff Flock
CNN Chicago Bureau Chief

CHICAGO, Illinois (CNN) -- Flash flooding gripped the Chicago area Thursday morning, shutting down major thoroughfares at the height of morning rush hour and flooding dozens of underpasses.

Interstate 94, known as Edens Expressway -- the major north-south highway on the near north side -- was flooded. Some cars were submerged.

Motorists were abandoning their cars on either side of the dark puddles, and others were driving the wrong way to find an exit.

Manhole covers were seen floating off in some places.

The flash flooding, an uncommon event in Chicago, began early Thursday morning when heavy rain moved through the area. One downpour lasted more than an hour.

The rain brought relief after several days of sweltering temperatures in Chicago, with heat index numbers reaching dangerous levels.

At least 2.5 inches of rain fell in parts of the city, and more was forecast.

Dozens of underpasses were flooded throughout the city, particularly on the north side.

The Commonwealth Edison electric company, which serves northern Illinois, said 56,000 customers were without power systemwide because of the storms.

"We had a lot of heavy rain, lightning strikes that contributed to the outages," said ComEd spokeswoman Tabrina Davis.

Crews were having trouble reaching downed areas because of the floods, she said. In one case, it took a crew 45 minutes to reach an area just 10 minutes away.

On-ramps to Lakeshore Drive, the main route along the Lake Michigan waterfront, were blocked by standing water. Some on-ramps to Edens Expressway were also shut down by authorities as a precaution.

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