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Power still out in West Chicago: ‘People are taking care of each other’

Richard Ham steps over downed power lines his property 400 block E. WashingtWest Chicago Wednesday July 4 2012. Residents his

Richard Ham steps over downed power lines on his property at the 400 block of E. Washington in West Chicago Wednesday, July 4, 2012. Residents on his block have been without power since a storm on Sunday. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times

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Updated: August 6, 2012 12:09PM



Richard and Audrey Ham of West Chicago lost electricity at 12:30 p.m. Sunday — and it’s still out.

More than three days after a major storm knocked out power in their town, the couple has been forced to endure the record heat largely without electricity, although they have hooked up two generators to maintain minimal power in their 1860s-era house.

Two trees on their property at 419 E. Washington St. were uprooted, and one tree hit power lines.

“This block is dead,” Richard Ham said.

The Hams and their neighbors worked outside in the heat on Wednesday, continuing to clear the uprooted old trees and negotiate with ComEd on which trees to cut in order to restore power.

Richard Ham said this is the worst power outage he has seen in the 24 years the couple has lived there.

Audrey, who has multiple sclerosis, said she has been taking dips in the backyard pool, even though it has turned green without power, and used a cold towel on her head to help her sleep.

The couple went out to eat Tuesday night to a restaurant that had air conditioning.

“We don’t turn on the lights for any length of time. We open and close the refrigerator as quickly as we can,” she said.

West Chicago First Ward Ald. Jim Beifuss, whose house in the 400 block of East Washington Street is 100 years old, said he and his family slept on the first floor instead of the third floor to stay cooler, and the children are staying at friends’ houses with power. The pets go to the basement to keep cool.

“We lost quite a few mature trees, and there are lots of big limbs on the ground,” Beifuss said. “It takes a lot of work.”

He noted an upside to the inconvenience: “You get to know your neighbors again. People are taking care of each other.”

ComEd spokeswoman Arlana Johnson said most customers were getting power back by Wednesday night, but a few customers would not be back up until Thursday. Crews have restored power to all customers in the south and far west suburbs.

As of Tuesday morning, 2,200 ComEd customers remained without power following the walloping Sunday storm that knocked out power to more than 300,000 households at its peak, officials said.

Most of those customers are in the near west suburbs, including West Chicago, Lombard, Addison and Glen Ellyn, ComEd Spokesman John Schoen said. About 100 are in the near-west suburb of Maywood and in Chicago.

Those were areas most severely affected by the storms, where crews would have to “essentially rebuild the systems,” installing new poles and other equipment, Johnson said.

Forecasters predict little relief for residents without air conditioning, as hot and humid conditions and highs in the 90s or higher will last through at least Saturday, according to the National Weather Service.

ComEd urges customers to avoid and report any downed power lines and report outages to (800) Edison1 or text outages to OUT26633. ComEd also has a mobile app for both iPhone and Android devices, which customers can use to report outages.



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