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Quick & mean storms knock out power to 250,000 ComEd customers

Kayaks removed from Chicago river near Kinzie Ave. Bridge | Al Podgorski~Chicago Sun-Times

Kayaks removed from the Chicago river near Kinzie Ave. Bridge | Al Podgorski~Chicago Sun-Times

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Updated: August 3, 2012 6:18AM



The morning skies promised Chicago a hot, sunny Sunday. Great for a dip in the pool or a kayaking tour on the river.

But the bright morning turned dark near noon before severe thunderstorms pummeled the city and suburbs with hail and winds up to 90 mph.

Pool-goers like Elizabeth Valdivia’s family in Lombard scrambled out of the water as the violent weather “came out of nowhere.”

The storms eventually caused 250,000 ComEd customers to lose power and more than 60 kayakers had to be rescued from the Chicago River. As of 2:30 a.m. Monday, 113,000 customers were still without power.

Most of the outages were in the north and west suburbs.

Nearly 200 calls of fallen trees and branches poured into Chicago’s 911 center, along with 50 calls of downed wires and 35 street light outages.

It all passed nearly as quickly as it arrived. The sun reappeared, the mercury rose as high as the low 90s.

Forecasters predicted more storms Monday.

On Sunday, area residents had little time to prepare for what was about to hit them when the National Weather Service issued a severe thunderstorm warning for the west suburbs at 11:25 a.m. It included Chicago in another warning at 12:24 p.m., and storms hit central Cook County shortly before 1 p.m.

The storms reintensified on the South Side of downtown Chicago at about the same time, according to the National Weather Service. They moved over the lake and into Northwest Indiana around 1:30 p.m.

The weather service heard reports of winds up to 80 to 90 mph, starting in the Elburn and Maple Park areas and moving east into central DuPage County. Winds measured up to 60 mph near O’Hare Airport.

Reports of hail came in from Will, Kane, DuPage and Cook counties, including some bigger than an inch reported in Wheaton, Addison and Brookfield.

National Weather Service meteorologist Bill Nelson said temperatures dropped in DuPage County, near Midway and O’Hare from a high of 91 degrees before the storms hit to lows of 64, 67 and 69, respectively. When the storms passed, he said, the entire region rebounded to the upper 80s and low 90s.

However brief, the hostile weather caused plenty of lasting damage.

A large tree fell on a vehicle, trapping a person inside on the North Side Sauganash neighborhood. Emergency crews were called at 12:43 p.m. to the 6000 block of North Kostner, according to police. A paramedic team was called but no one was transported, officials said.

More than 60 kayakers on the Chicago River had to be rescued after the storm blew in about 12:50 p.m. near Chicago Avenue and Halsted Street, officials said. Citations were issued to Chicago Kayak and Waveriders Kayak Tours after they failed to suspend tours despite severe weather warnings.

“We had it all under control,” said Chicago Kayak owner Dave Olson. “We had three guides out there, so for us it wasn’t that big of a deal.”

Valdivia in Lombard said she, her husband and their two sons — ages 9 and 11 — did not even have time to make the quick drive home from the local park district pool. And when they returned home the fallen tree limbs made their neighborhood look “like a disaster zone.”

Despite the storms, the National Weather Service said Chicago has had 18 days of 90-degree temperatures so far this year— putting the city on a record setting pace. Weather forecasters said that will continue this week, and city officials urged Chicagoans to get ready for it.

“It is important to treat extreme heat temperatures as you would any other emergency,” said Gary Schenkel, the head of Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications. “Taking the necessary precautions can prevent heat-related emergencies and ensure safety while enjoying summer activities.”



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