Willis Tower, United Airlines’ HQ and Ops Center, Remains Dark After Flooding

By Paul Riegler on 21 May 2020
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The power is still out at Chicago’s Willis Tower, the location of United Airlines’ headquarters and its main operations center, after rainfall caused the Chicago River to overflow into the lower level of the building and submerged a ComEd, substation.

The 110-storey Willis Tower, still known colloquially as the Sears Tower, the name it held for 36 years, opened in 1973.  At 1,450’ (442.1 m), it surpassed the World Trade Center in New York City as the tallest building in the world, and held that title for 25 years. ComEd, or Commonwealth Edison, is the sole electric provider in Chicago.

Flight dispatchers were evacuated through darkened stairwells but United was able to continue operations by switching to its back-up operations center at its former suburban headquarters in Elk Grove Village, which it reopened in March of this year.

Chicago police said the antennas atop the tower are not lit because of the outage, and that O’Hare and Midway airports and the Federal Aviation Administration have been notified.

The loss of power shut down the broadcast antennae atop the tower, disrupting the broadcasts of numerous radio and television stations including WBBM-Channel 2, the CBS-owned station in the city, as well as WTTW-Channel 11 and several radio stations including WFMT 98.7 FM, the city’s only classical music station, and WLS 94.7 FM, a classic hits station that resumed broadcasting from a secondary site at the former John Hancock Center.

ComEd said it has made progress in restoring power to Willis Tower as of Wednesday afternoon.

“Water has been removed from the vault containing the substation that services the building,” said Thomas Dominguez, a spokesman for the utility.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)


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