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Happy Anniversary, Man-made Disaster!

By Shannon in News on Apr 14, 2007 8:15PM

2007_04_freightunnel.jpgChicagoist has a confession to make. We were not living directly in the city in 1992. Sacrilege, we know. Being the reluctant suburbanites we were, however, we couldn't help but hear about the flooding that went on in the Loop. Yes, Friday marked the 15-year anniversary of the colossal city cluster.

Months before the disastrous date, construction workers rehabilitating the Kinzie Street bridge unknowingly placed some wooden pilings atop an abandoned tunnel and drove them downwards. The resulting pressure allowed a hole to open up along one of the tunnel walls. It took a while for water to make it through all the mud and gook, but when it did, whoa nelly! It was Monday the 13th (not quite Friday the 13th, but in some respects, even worse) when a whirlpool was noticed in the River at Kinzie, a whirlpool that signified that gallons upon gallons of water were being sucked into the network of tunnels at a high rate of speed.

Big deal, one may say; some abandoned tunnels bite it, so what? Well, those tunnels had been around since 1899, and connected to many older buildings in the Loop for the purpose of coal delivery. Ergo, lots of established businesses ended up with standing water in their basements and sub-basements, some getting as much as 40 (!) feet. The entirety of the Loop was evacuated, the CBOT and CME shut down trading, and the city tried desperately to fix the increasing leaks. Even the CTA took a hit, as subway/tunnel junctions sustained cracks as well, causing water to seep into the State and Dearborn tubes. Eventually the hole, now expanded to the size of a car, was plugged with concrete and rocks; the Army Corps of Engineers flew in to help with cleanup and tunnel pumpage. All in all, businesses and transportation were interrupted and/or compromised for several weeks. On second thought, we're kind of glad we weren't living here then.

Image via the Chicago Public Library.