Police Cmdr. Tom Murphy said it is unclear where the woman was headed when she fell 12 feet down the manhole in an area behind a supermarket, The (Arlington Heights, Ill.) Daily Herald reported.
Murphy said the 76-year-old woman was able to get through to an emergency dispatcher but fire crews had trouble locating the uncovered hole and almost called off the search.
"The whole (fire) department was looking," Murphy said. "She's lucky she had a cell."
Once they found the manhole, Palatine firefighters went down to treat the woman for injuries that were not life threatening before lifting her out with a harness.
The group that owns the property where the open manhole is located replaced the missing cover after the accident occurred, Murphy said.