Hundreds of thousands still without power after Monday's storm

July 12, 2011

by The Associated Press and City Room

(AP/Nam Y. Huh)
Part of a tree rests on a car at Park City in Waukegan, Ill. after Monday morning's storm.

About 330,000 Commonwealth Edison customers are still without power Tuesday afternoon, after the most damaging storm system in more than a decade roared through northern Illinois Monday, leaving downed trees and debris in its wake.

The storm early yesterday downed trees, ripped off roofs and left at least 868,000 utility customers without power. ComEd officials said that was the most outages in at least a decade.

"The storm system that came through the area yesterday was massive and it brought with it high winds, heavy rain," said Tony Hernandez, a ComEd spokesman. "Most damaging to the ComEd system was intense lightning which caused extensive tree damage which brought down a lot of our power lines."

He also said that ComEd is hiring private contractors and workers from other states to help clean up.

ComEd reports it will have up to 900 crews working Tuesday to assess damage and restore customers as quickly as possible.

Several people were injured during the storm, including seven workers struck by a collapsing tent and a woman shocked by a high-voltage charge that came through her landline telephone.

In rural areas, winds measured at 60 mph to 75 mph flattened cornfields and at least one barn. High winds forced the delay and cancellations of hundreds of flights at Chicago's Midway and O'Hare airports.

The combination of power outages and high temperatures has city of Chicago officials working to prevent heat-related illnesses for people without air conditioning. Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford says the city has received calls about outages from about a dozen buildings housing seniors, who are most at-risk during hot spells.

"In the upper floors of these buildings, it's not unusual, if you have 90 degrees of outside temperature, for the inside temperature in some of these buildings to rise well over 100 degrees," Langford said, adding that some buildings could be evacuated if the power remains out for too long and temperatures begin to climb.

The Chicago region will most likely be spared from another round of heavy storms, according to National Weather Service forecasts. Highs in the mid-80s are expected Tuesday.

The city of Chicago's Department of Family and Support Services is asking people to check on seniors, and to call 311 if they have a neighbor who needs help.

Natasha Payton and her 93-year-old grandfather appreciated the cooling center in East Garfield Park.

“We used to have the air conditioner running,” Payton said Monday afternoon. “But nothing is on because the power [has been] out since 8:30 this morning. It’s stifling hot in the house.”

A department spokeswoman said use of the cooling centers could be heavier Tuesday if ComEd has not restored electricity to most of the Chicago homes without it.