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Weather Updates

Hurricane Sandy affecting Chicago travel and lakeshore

Updated: November 30, 2012 6:22AM



Hurricane Sandy not only forced nearly 500 flight cancellations and threatened to flood the local shoreline, on Monday it closed most of the Chicago financial markets.

The New York Stock Exchange chose to close markets Monday and possibly Tuesday because of the risks to employees as New York braced for storm. The last time the NYSE closed for an emergency was the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, when it remained closed for four days.

Because of the NYSE shutdown, the Chicago Board Options Exchange and some markets at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the Chicago Board of Trade also closed for Monday’s business.

“There’s nothing we can do,” Rick Felman, a Euro options broker with Chicago’s Bear Brokerage, said Monday morning. “It’s like the Great Flood” of the Loop in 1992.

“It costs everybody the opportunity to make money,” Felman said.

Although agriculture markets remain open Monday, Mattew Pierce with GrainAnalyst.com, said he expected volume to be extremely low on Monday.

Along with the markets, the storm wiped out travel plans along the eastern seaboard, with its residual effects hitting Chicago.

As of 10:30 Monday morning, the Department of Aviation reported more than 400 flight cancellations at O’Hare Airport and another 90 at Midway.

At the United terminal at O’Hare, co-workers Brian Kuhar and Ray Hernandez weren’t trying to fly to the East Coast, but they were suffering the effects of the monster storm nevertheless.

Kuhar and Hernandez, who work for a company in Glenview, were supposed to fly out Sunday afternoon to Denver. They ended up waiting five hours for a standby flight Sunday, after their plane was grounded on the East Coast. Despite being Nos. 1 and 2 on the United standby list, they

never got on a plane Sunday night.

“It’s really frustrating,” said Hernandez, 42, of Crystal Lake. “The standbys are picked by who has the most mileage or who pays the most for their ticket. That sucks.”

Kuhar agreed their situation was frustrating — both men returned to their homes last night, arriving back at O’Hare on Monday morning — but he said things certainly could be worse.

“It’s OK. It’s not too bad,” Kuhar said. “I could be at work.”

Kuhar and Hernandez were hopeful of boarding a plane late Monday morning.

At O’Hare, airlines have canceled more than 100 flights, some those were bound for East Coast, said a Chicago Department of Aviation spokesman. At Midway, airlines are reporting minor delays to East Coast bound planes and have canceled more than 12 flights.

FlightAware reported 2,500 U.S. cancellations for Monday. The airlines are waiving fees for travelers who need to rebook flights and are offering refunds in some cases.

Amtrak on Sunday canceled its Capitol Limited service between Chicago and Washington D.C. It also scrapped nearly all service on the eastern seaboard starting Sunday night and said a decision will come later on when the trains can resume.

Passengers who have paid for their trains but choose not to travel can receive a refund or a voucher for a later date.

On Sunday, even as the storm headed to shore, Chicagoans mobilized to help East Coast residents and were warned that even the storm’s most extreme reach will make Lake Michigan treacherous.

ComEd said it sent 240 crews, about 700 people, to eastern states to help with anticipated power outages.

The workers include ComEd and contractor crews, utility spokesman John Schoen said. He said they are reporting to either Philadelphia or Baltimore, cities where ComEd has sister utilities also owned by Exelon Corp. The American Red Cross of Greater Chicago dispatched nine volunteers to help with local disaster relief efforts at various locations, spokesman Gentry Lassiter said.

The main effect in the Chicago area could be flooding along the Lake Michigan shoreline. The National Weather Service posted a lakeshore flood watch to take effect late Monday, when it said waves could quickly build to 15 feet to 20 feet and reach 33 feet later Tuesday.

Weather service meteorologist Amy Seeley said the flood concern stems not from rain, but from winds on the fringe on the hurricane. She said the only Sandy-related precipitation the region could see will be some showers in northwest Indiana around midweek.

The larger concern is northerly winds of around 60 miles per hour expected to churn Lake Michigan waters starting Monday and continuing for around 48 hours. The weather service said winds probably will reach gale- or storm-force.

What happens will depend on where Sandy makes landfall and how it interacts with other systems, Seeley said.

Mariners without the proper experience or equipment should stay on land, forecasters said. The waves will batter beaches and are expected to cause shoreline erosion.

Flooding could occur on Lake Shore Drive and on the lakefront bicycle and pedestrian path.

Forecasters said the hurricane could blow ashore Monday night or early Tuesday along the New Jersey coast, then cut across into Pennsylvania and travel up through New York State on Wednesday.

Sandy, a Category 1 hurricane with sustained winds of 75 mph as of Sunday evening, was blamed for 65 deaths in the Caribbean before it began traveling northward, parallel to the Eastern Seaboard. As of 8 p.m., it was centered about 485 miles southeast of New York City, moving at 15 mph, with hurricane-force winds extending an incredible 175 miles from its center.

Contributing: Francine Knowles, AP



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