Maintenance crews restored power to tens of thousands of homes overnight after severe thunderstorms in the Chicago region brought powerful winds and reports of funnel clouds Wednesday evening.
By 11:30 a.m., of the more than 78,000 customers affected by the storms, only about 3,500 remained without power, according to ComEd.
Funnel clouds were reported during the storm in Lee County and near Rockford and National Weather Service personnel were heading out to affected areas today to survey damage and try to determine if tornadoes touched down. The wind and heavy rain caused traffic and commuter train problems, and some tree and power line damage was reported although the power outages have been relatively few.
The storms produced heavy rain, as much as 1 to 2 inches an hour, leading to flash flooding in areas including Kankakee, Bradley and Schererville, Ind. Hail as big as 1.75 inches in diameter--golf ball size hail--fell in the Rockford area, and 1-inch hail was measured on the Northwest Side.
Law enforcement reported tree and power line damage in the area of Shabbona and Sleepy Hollow Roads in DeKalb County, possibly due to a tornado touchdown, but that has not been confirmed, according to the National Weather Service.
Similar damage, along with some damage to boats, was reported at Shabbona Lake State Park.
Funnel clouds were reported west of Chicago. The National Weather Service said a spotter had called in to report a tornado touching the ground near Somonauk, but the service was unable to confirm the report.
Aurora activated the city's severe weather sirens due to a tornado warning issued for Kendall County, but there have been no tornadoes spotted within the city limits, a city spokesman said about 5:40 p.m.
The area saw heavy rain, some hail and lots of lightning and thunder, with the Aurora Fire Department responding to two calls of apparent lightning strikes on electrical transformers. There were no fires to any structures, said Dan Ferrelli, city spokesman.
All inbound and outbound trains on Metra’s Burlington Northern Santa Fe and Union Pacific lines were temporarily halted about 5:30 p.m. due to the severe weather, along with some stoppages on other service, according to a Metra spokesman.
Of Metra’s 11 train lines, eight were moving again by a little before 7 p.m. Trains on the Burlington Northern Santa Fe line had resumed service around 6 p.m. after being halted due to safety concerns earlier in the evening.
Trains on the Union Pacific lines remained stopped from about 5:30 p.m. until about 7:05 p.m., said Metra spokesman Tom Miller, but all service had resumed after that time. Delays were spread throughout the system.
The delays were a particular nuisance for Blackhawks fans who were eager to get home to catch the first game of the Stanley Cup Final.
“Stuck stopped on the train right now,” Colin Ogden of Normal, Ill., wrote Wednesday evening on Twitter. “This is unreal!!! Doesn't metra know the Hawks play tonight!!!”
Lightning was the suspected cause of a Lemont house fire this evening, said Lemont Fire Chief Carl Churulo.
Fire crews battled the fire on the second story of the house in the 16400 block of Alba at about 6 p.m., Churulo said.
Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford said Wednesday night that there were, surprisingly, no instances of lightning-induced fires in the city. The department also wasn't yet aware of any downed trees or other damage caused by the storm.
“We were prepared for more, we thought there would be more,” Langford said.
Much of the Chicago area saw brief episodes of hail, especially in Kane and Kendall counties, with the size described as being from nickel-sized to golfball-sized.
A flood watch is in effect for Chicagoland from 4 p.m. through late Wednesday night.
Inbound and outbound flights at O’Hare International Airport were delayed 60 to 90 minutes and airlines had to cancel more than 360 flights due to the storms. At Midway, nearly a dozen flights were delayed an average of 2 1/2 hours, and airlines had canceled more than 50 flights, according to the Chicago Department of Aviation.
As a precaution, the White Sox canceled their night game against Toronto. The city canceled all outdoor events at Millennium Park, including the opening night of the Grant Park Music Festival.
The city of Evanston closed facilities and sent workers home early.
It’s a precaution that the city hasn’t had to take since the 2011 blizzard, said city spokesman Eric Palmer.
“We’re taking this seriously,” Palmer said. “This (storm) looks as if it’s going to come into the metropolitan area during rush hour. We want to make sure that we can get our staff home safely.”
Evanston closed all of its facilities as of 3 p.m. and closed all beaches. Officials are also called around to construction sites to make sure that construction materials are tied down and cranes are secured before winds pick up, Palmer said. Most city employees were sent home, but some were held back in case the storms take down trees or cause flooding, Palmer said.
Thursday is expected to be mostly sunny and cooler, with high temperatures in the mid 60s.
Tribune reporters Kim Geiger, Michael Holtz and Alexandra Chachkevitch contributed.
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