Weather Updates

Storm delays Bears game, leave 59,000 in Chicago area without power

Fans take cover as severe rastorm begins move through Soldier Field during first half an NFL football game between Chicago

Fans take cover as a severe rain storm begins to move through Soldier Field during the first half of an NFL football game between the Chicago Bears and Baltimore Ravens, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

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PHOTOS: Rain-soaked fans at Soldier Field
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Updated: December 19, 2013 6:29AM

They snuck cigarettes, swigged their beer, snapped photographs and tried to ward off boredom in their ponchos as strong thunderstorms interrupted a Bears game for two hours Sunday at Soldier Field, forcing fans to leave their seats and take cover.

But the potential peril in the football game’s false start amounted ultimately to a minor inconvenience. The havoc wrought Downstate as a large weather system moved across the Midwest and Great Lakes states dwarfed the damage suffered by Chicago. The city didn’t escape unscathed, though.

About 59,000 people in the Chicago area were without power Sunday night down from almost 90,000 late Sunday afternoon. As of 8 p.m., 6,600 people in the city had no power, ComEd spokeswoman Kim Morris-Johnson said. About 34,000 had not power in the south suburbs; 11,000 in the west suburbs and 6,600 in the north suburbs. She said ComEd crews were assessing the damage, and there was no word on when power would be restored.

National Weather Service meteorologist Matt Friedlein said the agency confirmed reports of a tornado near Coal City — around central Grundy County and far western Will County — with wind speeds between 110 and 135 mph.

Meanwhile, Friedlein said winds as high as 59 mph were recorded at Midway Airport, but not until after the storm passed about 2 p.m. Most of the area saw between a half-inch to an inch of rain, but Friedlein said some areas recorded as much as three inches.

Metra spokesman Michael Gillis said high winds stopped three Union Pacific line trains for about two hours Sunday, and one outbound train on that line was running late Sunday night because of an obstruction on the tracks. The Chicago Transit Authority, meanwhile, reported no problem more serious than flooded viaducts that forced buses to reroute.

A city spokeswoman said there were less than 100 calls from residents about weather-related damage. There were no reports of weather-related injuries and no reports of flash-flooding. Parts of Montrose and Lawrence were closed at one point, but crews worked quickly to remove water and open the streets for motorists.

Meanwhile, the rain fell hard and the wind whipped wildly around Soldier Field while fans were huddling in the concourses. A Soldier Field official said it was the first time fans were told to take shelter since the stadium was renovated in 2003. Dave Strom, 29, a carpenter from Crown Point, Ind., said, “It wasn’t horrible.”

“Just a lot of people, like a herd of cattle,” Strom said. “We were waiting in the concourse. They were making announcements on the speakers to keep us posted about the weather, so it wasn’t too bad.”

The crowd at Soldier Field was estimated at 58,000.

Some fans crammed under overhangs and waited out the storm in the United Club, watching TV and buying food and drinks. Jackie Vitiello joked that she didn’t know “what’s going on outside” as she sipped a beer. Andy Murphy of Wauconda admitted the delay was a bore, but he vowed to stick it out.

“We have a deficit to make up,” Murphy said. “We’ll stay the night if we have to.”

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