'Limited' arrivals and departures begin at O'Hare, Midway - FOX 32 News Chicago

'Limited' arrivals and departures begin at O'Hare, Midway

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(Photos by FOX 32's Eddie Bartlett) (Photos by FOX 32's Eddie Bartlett)
Passengers stare at departure board at O'Hare Passengers stare at departure board at O'Hare
CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - A ground stop was in effect Tuesday afternoon at O'Hare and Midway airports after smoke was reported in an Elgin air control tower, officials said.

Around 11:30 a.m. all Federal Aviation Administration personnel were evacuated from the TRACON facility after smoke was seen in the Elgin facility, according to an FAA spokesman. All air traffic operations were transferred to the Aurora location, and all flights were grounded at O'Hare and Midway.

Elgin Fire Capt. Anthony Bailek said the department was called for smoke in the building about noon. He said a motor in a bathroom ceiling fan had burned up, sending smoke into the building’s heating and air conditioning system.

Once in that system, Bialek said, “It blew all over the place. That’s why they had trouble finding it.’’

Bialek said he believed the fan was in the women’s bathroom, and he did not know how far it was from where air traffic controllers work. But finding the source of the smoke was not easy, he said.

“We don’t want to damage stuff in there, so we were being very careful, taking our time,’’ Bialek said. “They never had any flames or heavy smoke, it was just light smoke and they were like, ‘Where is this coming from?’ ”

Controllers finally started to return to the building around 1:10 p.m., Bialek said.

Though the ground stop remains still in effect, limited arrivals and departures have begun at O’Hare and Midway as of 2:55 p.m., according to an FAA statement. The agency is working to clear residual smoke from the radar control room at the Elgin facility to allow air traffic controllers to return to work safely, according to the statement.

At O’Hare, more than 600 flights have been canceled and both inbound and outbound flights are delayed an average of 60 minutes, according to the city’s Department of Aviation.

At Midway, about 75 flights have been canceled and “some” flights are significantly delayed.

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.

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