CHICAGO (CBS) -- Several streets in the Sauganash neighborhood were flooded Thursday morning, after a water main burst overnight.
The city's Water Management Department was notified of the water main break around 3 a.m. near Caldwell and Forest Glen avenues.
Spokesman Gary Litherland there was a failure in a 36-inch main under the street, sending a fountain of water into the air, and flooding at least three blocks before crews were able to shut off the water around 7:30 a.m. Litherland said it wasn't clear yet if the problem was a broken pipe or broken valve.
"We don't know the nature of the failure yet. We won't know that until we excavate the site and see what was going on here," he said.
Litherland said it is very rare for such a large water main to break.
"Last time I saw this was about 8 to 10 years ago. So, 36-inch mains don't typically break," he said.
Even after water was shut off in the area, water could be seen bubbling up from some sewer grates in the streets. Litherland explained that some sewers became inundated with water and were overflowing into the street. That problem should subside after the main was shut off and the water gradually drains.
The water main break caused millions of gallons of water to inundate parts of a four-block area. Patrick Callaghan was one of about 30 homeowners whose property took on water – including in his fireplace.
"I looked out the window, and I saw that the entire neighborhood, street, was flooded side to side; and I thought, my God, I must have slept through the biggest rainstorm in history," he said. "I've never gotten water through the front of the house before."
Damien Lee woke to the sound of rushing water in his basement.
"The water was coming up from the ground up, from the basements, from the main pipes on the outside of the house, the drains, everywhere," he said.
Lee said his whole basement was flooded.
Richard Cieslik said water came up to his front steps, and had swamped his car parked out front
"The car was blinking lights, the windshield wipers were on," he said.
At the peak of the flooding, water came up to the top of his car's wheels, so it was no surprise the car was totally dead Thursday morning.
Litherland said one thing that made matters worse was leaves and other debris blocking sewer grates, preventing the water from draining.
"A lot of what our crews have had to do is literally rake the leaves off of their catch basins and water basins. If you have the same situation, please be a good neighbor; go out and rake it up," he said.
Although the weather has been relatively mild the past couple weeks, Litherland said it's still too cold for the city's street sweepers and vacuum trucks to operate properly and keep streets and sewer grates clear of debris.
"If you're raking your leaves, please don't rake them into the street. If you are cleaning up, go out and rake the leaves out in front of that catch basin by the gutter in the street. It goes a long way to helping prevent situations like you see behind me," he said.
Several streets in the area were closed to traffic due to flooded roads early Thursday morning, but those streets began reopening after the water was shut off.
Litherland said, if any homeowners suffered any flooding in their homes as a result of the water main break, they should file a claim with the City Clerk's office.
Members of the city's Law Department also were going door-to-door Thursday morning to help homeowners fill out paperwork to file damage claims with their insurance companies.
It was not clear when water service would be turned on again.
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