The Chicago River floods the Loop
Photo: Chicago Tribune

April 13, 1992

The first reports of trouble sounded too improbable to believe: The river was leaking? Downtown basements were filling up with water containing fish? But as the scale of the mess — caused when crews replacing pilings in the river broke through a retaining wall, releasing 250 million gallons of water into old freight tunnels —  became apparent, Chicagoans realized they were witnessing a massive inundation unprecedented even in flood-prone Chicago. Cleanup and remediation took years and cost more than $1 billion.

From the Archives

July 1992 issue
Photo: Michael Zajakowski

In July 1992, Dennis Rodkin chronicled the unhappy lot of the city’s acting transportation commissioner, who took the fall for the Loop flood.

“Last April 13, as the Great Chicago Flood poured through tunnels and basements under the Loop, Mayor Richard M. Daley cast about for someone to blame. He quickly found acting transportation commissioner John LaPlante, 52, a smart, dedicated traffic engineer who had worked for the city since 1960. Though LaPlante was one of the last players in the drama to learn of the fatal leak, the Mayor decided that the commissioner had been slow about starting emergency repairs. The next day, [Daley’s son] gave [him] the boot.”