High waters already led to intermittent closures of most major expressways, but now officials throughout the city and suburbs are eyeing rapidly rising river levels along with drainage problems that are stranding motorists and blocking thoroughfares.
"I urge everyone to stay alert and avoid flooded areas," the governor said in a statement. "Residents should tune in to local TV and radio stations for updated information about any closed routes or evacuations."
Along with hundreds of school closures, a number of forest preserves were shut down due to flooding and the Brookfield Zoo closed its gates for only the third time in its history.
The Des Plaines River is expected to reach record levels in Des Plaines and Riverside, according to the National Weather Service, which said the river is already over its banks in many areas.
An alert from River Forest said the Des Plaines River was rising at a “very fast pace” and that some roads in the village are closed from flooding.
The River Forest Public Works team has sandbagged a “strategic area along River Oaks Drive to help protect residential areas from flood waters,” according to the village, and will be out this morning to reinforce and add to this berm in an effort to keep flood waters away from residential areas.
The Chain O'Lakes and Fox River have flowed over their banks, blocking roads and causing flooding has begun in Fox Lake.
Kent McKenzie, emergency management coordinator for Lake County, estimated that 500 to 1,000 homes at the Chain O’Lakes could be affected by the flooding.
“We’re expecting based on forecasts from the National Weather Service that we could approach or exceed major flood stages or even record flood stages at some locations,” McKenzie said at a press conference in Libertyville Thursday. “This is a very serious situation.”
McKenzie said the county’s public works department had sent nearly 200,000 sandbags to local municipalities and townships. He added that the county was trying to obtain additional sandbags from the Illinois Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers.
“The rate with which the river is rising on the Des Plaines is very rapid,” McKenzie said. “We saw rises of nearly 3 feet since last night at the Des Plaines River gauge at Route 120.”
Emergency responders have had to evacuate residents from homes due to flooding along the Fox River in South Elgin this morning, officials said.
"We are seeing a number of houses along the river with significant flooding," said Don Bryant, director of the Kane County Office of Emergency Management.
The Fox River was at 12 feet deep below the dam in Algonquin, more than two feet above flood stage, with another foot of rising water expected through Friday, Bryant said. That would make the effects comparable to widespread flooding in 2007.
In Elmhurst, Maureen McNicholas grabbed her two daughters and a couple of their friends to survey the water level in the Palmer Drive underpass, which the city floods to alleviate water overflow in other areas. The gray-brown water was about 20 feet deep.
"I've lived in Elmhurst my entire life and I've never seen it this high," said McNicholas, 51, who told her kids about the underpass being built when she was in high school.
Her house remained dry.