Weather Updates

Chicago could see potentially damaging ‘derecho’ storms

Updated: July 13, 2013 6:36AM

Destructive “derecho” winds blowing 75 mph, golf ball-sized hail, flash flooding and even tornadoes could accompany thunderstorms expected to sweep through the Chicago area Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service.

Multiple thunderstorms with the potential to spin off tornadoes and hail are forecast to hit the area early- to mid-afternoon, said NWS meteorologist Ben Deubelbeiss.

Later in the day, the storms could combine to form a fast moving straight-line windstorm called a derecho, packing sustained winds of at least 75 mph, Deubelbeiss said. The last derecho pummeled Chicago in July of 2011, when weather stations at Midway Airport and in Crystal Lake clocked sustained winds of the 75 mph and nearly 900,000 ComEd customers lost power.

The service is also warning that the heavy rains could result in flash flooding. A flash flood watch is in effect for the area from 3 p.m. Wednesday to 4 p.m. Thursday.

Tuesday evening, the utility was getting ready. “We are staffing up for the storm that’s coming,” said ComEd spokesman John Schoen. “We’ll have crews at the ready in the event there’s any trouble.” ComEd customers can report outages via texting, Facebook, smart phone apps or by calling 1-800-Edison-1.

If there is trouble, ComEd will be in a good position to show off how it handles a storm. The utility is hosting a storm symposium attended by 16 utilities from across the country to discuss best practices for storm response.

Meanwhile the weather service’s storm predication center in Norman, Okla. was warning that derecho storms could blow across a wide swath of the Midwest Wednesday, affecting metropolitan areas such as Milwaukee, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland and Pittsburgh.

“We tend to be careful using the D word, but yes, a derecho is possible,” said Bill Bunting, a meteorologist in the agency’s storm prediction center.

Contributing: Associated Press

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