Water main break floods Kennedy Expressway
November 29, 2005 (WLS) -- Crews are repairing a water main on the Kennedy Expressway after it broke and trapped dozens of drivers around midnight Tuesday. The water reached up to four feet in some places. The repairs could take several days.
Some of the motorists' cars were destroyed in the water main break along the Kennedy Expressway. They were forced to rent cars and visit their insurance agents Tuesday. Al and his brother Joe left their insurance agent's office knowing that their Honda C.R.V. is useless.
"Right now we're going to get rental cars to go to work and see after that," said Joe Sitko, Car Owner's Brother.
Twenty-six vehicles were towed off the roadway. Most look fine from the outside, but inside you can see the water damage.
"You can see the water lines on the side of most of them come up a good three, four, feet. So depending on how good the cars are sealed, water still finds its way in," said Jim Haase, S & T Towing.
The water destroyed the electronics in most of the cars.
"That is the main problem. Any of that gets water means it's got to be replaced," said Jack Krzosek, Insurance Agent.
All the lanes of the outbound Kennedy Expressway were opened in time for the morning rush hour. Crews worked overnight to clean up the mess. At the height of the flood, some drivers compared the expressway to a river.
"The waves were actually rocking my car. My electrical system went out and I had to abandon the car, grab what I could out of the car and make my way to dry land," said Chaaze Roberts, stranded motorist.
"I saw the water coming from the other lanes and I thought I have to abandon ship. And sure enough, it completely flooded and died out there," said Charlie Vanderploeg, stranded motorist. "What are you going to do?"
No one was injured, but motorists were wet, cold, and uncomfortable.
"Everybody started getting out of the car. That is when all the ladies started crying. Couple of old people had dogs and whatnot. It was real crazy to see that," said Martise Harris, stranded motorist.
The outbound lanes at Grand Avenue were closed for more than five hours as crews cleaned up the mess. Crews began to repair the 36-inch cast iron water main Tuesday morning. They will work 24-hours a day until the work is complete but it could take a few days. Officials said the commute should not be seriously affected.
"In general, they should expect pretty smooth sailing. We don't expect to have much in the way of lane blockage. We can't say with great certainty whether a lane will occasionally be blocked or not, but we're lucky it is on an embankment and not the middle of the pavement," said Tom LaPorte, Chicago Water Dept.
Water main breaks are common at this time of year because of the drastic changes in temperatures.
Photographer covering water main break becomes victim
A photographer who wanted to cover the story ended up being a victim of the flooded expressway.
With water flooding on the Kennedy Expressway and traffic at a stand still, it seemed like a news story, so freelance photographer Chuck Pullen got out of this car to shoot the story.
"Winter in Chicago! This happens every week and didn't seem like that big of a deal, but once I was in the middle of it, the water started coming faster and faster," said Chuck Pullen, Freelance Photographer.
The water was coming so fast that motorists had to leave their cars and head to higher ground, but Pullen waded in the water shooting pictures of the flooded roadway.
"At that point I realized the sewers had stopped working and the water was rising very fast. Basically in a couple of minutes water had gone from ankle deep to waist deep. I decided to get back to my car," said Pullen.
Pullen's car was emerged in the water when he returned. He believes his car is destroyed and now he is worried about the camera that took the pictures.
"The camera is worth about the same as the car. Hopefully the camera is OK. We think it is OK. It still powers up and everything," said Pullen.
Pullen says he will think twice before covering another breaking story.
"I kind of have a bad habit of jumping into stories. I think I will think twice before I jump in like I did today," said Pullen.
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