Chicago-area storm knocks out power, slows air traffic and causes high waves in Lake Michigan; more than 4 inches of rain falls in some spots

·3 min read

Thousands of customers still were without power late Monday afternoon in the Chicago area after a weather system that produced widespread storms overnight Sunday and continuing powerful winds off Lake Michigan Monday.

ComEd reported as many as 96,400 power outages across the northern Illinois service area since the storm began Sunday, Luz Bottecchia, a Commonwealth Edison spokesperson, said Monday afternoon.By late Monday afternoon, about 7,300 customers were still without power in Cook County, including about 6,000 in Chicago.

The storm also took a toll on overnight air travel. As of Monday morning, 302 flights departing or arriving at O’Hare International Airport had been canceled and 577 more were delayed, with the average delay lasting 75 minutes, according to the city’s Aviation Department. Only three flights had been canceled at Midway Airport, where 97 delayed flights were less than 15 minutes late, on average.

The rainfall measured 2.61 inches at O’Hare International Airport over the course of the storm, Chicago National Weather Service meteorologist Casey Sullivan said.

“The immediate city of Chicago was kind of on the lower side, but they still got 2-plus inches of rain,” Sullivan said. “You get into the western or southern suburbs of Chicago, there was a band of 3 to 4 or more inches of rain.”

Oak Lawn saw 4.31 inches of rain as of 7 a.m., for example, and Romeoville, where the weather service’s offices are located, saw 3.65 inches.

This rainfall was sorely needed. The Chicago area has had a comparatively dry year. According to Sullivan, Chicago normally has about 32.5 inches of rain by Oct. 25. This year, Chicago has seen about 25.7 inches.

“Even with the rain that we had through yesterday,” Sullivan said, “we were still below normal as of midnight.”

Along with the rain, intense winds continued into Monday morning, gusting up to 50 mph in Chicago, according to the weather service. Off the shore of Lake Michigan, a buoy floating near Wilmette measured wave heights of up to 13.8 feet.

The wind was so severe the weather service issued a gale warning for the southern open waters of Lake Michigan and along the shoreline, saying the wind is strong enough to damage or even capsize vessels.

Ryan Ciminski, who lives in the NEMA Chicago residential skyscraper in the South Loop, said he left the building for five minutes about 9 a.m. Monday and returned to find the revolving door to his building completely shattered. He said the wind was extremely strong, and he wasn’t “surprised that it happened.”

“I had to quite literally sprint against it to get up the street on Roosevelt,” Ciminski said. “If you would have told me that a tornado was nearby, I would (have) definitely believed you.”

Other Chicago-area residents posted on social media about the winds blowing through the city and suburbs. One person on Twitter wrote that the wind blew out her window panes. Another said the wind shook her house like an earthquake.

Downstate Chester suffered damage after storms ripped across the border between Missouri and Illinois. A possible tornado touched down in St. Mary, Missouri, before traveling across the Mississippi River and into Chester. Damage was mostly confined to power lines and downed trees in Chester, The Associated Press reported. A Three Springs Lodge nursing home’s roof was ripped off, but all the residents were safe.

Looking ahead, the weather service forecasts the rain will ease throughout the night Monday, and Tuesday and Wednesday will be dry. The next chance of rain arrives Thursday, especially in the afternoon and night. The highs for the coming weeks are in the mid-50-degree range during the day. At night, the temperature drops to the low 40s.

sygoodman@chicagotribune.com

lzumbach@chicagotribune.com

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