Chicago Weather: High winds cause damage as temps drop

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High winds brought on by a fast-moving cold front caused damage throughout the Chicago area Monday night. (WLS)

Chicagoans have been enjoying the unseasonably warm weather in December - but temperatures are set to drop overnight, and high winds are already causing damage in Chicago and the suburbs.

Monday night in south suburban Alsip, residents experienced a windy winter and a reality check.

A Citgo gas station canopy was no match for the fierce gusts. Esther Welch, a great grandmother, was beneath it when it collapsed.

"I just thank God that the pumps didn't explode, and it didn't crush me," said Esther Welch.

Welch's car was inches from being crumpled after pulling in next to the pump.

"I heard a boom, and the next thing I knew I seen the canopy coming towards my car, so I ducked down, laid down on the seat," said Welch.

Esther says there was a second driver pumping gas, but he managed to make a run for it. Village officials are investigating whether wind was the only factor.

That incident wasn't the only close call.

In Lake View, gusty winds caused glass to shatter in the upper floor window of a high-rise in the 3700 block of N. Halsted. Chicago police closed part of the street as a scaffolding crew attempted to repair the damaged building.

The winds damaged a flag pole near electric and telephone wires outside of Schubert Elementary School in the Cragin neighborhood. ComEd crews responded to the area.

At Willis Tower, the Skydeck closed as a precaution.

High winds also caused some arriving flights at O'Hare Airport to be delayed an average of 2 hours and 45 minutes, with 207 cancellations.

The day ended like a lion after coming in like a lamb. Warm day-time temperatures sent people to the lakefront and outdoor ice rinks were a slushy mess.

But tonight, winter is announcing its return, and Welch is counting her blessings.

"If I had gotten out the car when I started to, it probably would have fell on me," she said.

Temperatures will drop from a high of about 60 degrees Monday to a low in the mid-30s Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service.
A wind advisory is in effect until noon Tuesday. The weather service warns that gusts between 45 and 50 miles per hour are possible.

By later Monday evening, there is a chance for showers and storms, according to the weather service.

Monday morning's highs in the mid-50s were 15 degrees above normal highs for early December, according to the weather service. The record high for Dec. 4 was 66 degrees in 1998.

But by Tuesday afternoon, wind chills could fall to the teens, and snow flurries will be possible in the afternoon.

Later in the week, highs are only expected to reach the mid-20s, according to the weather service.
The city issued a statement Monday warning Chicagoans to prepare for the cold temperatures.

"With winter weather approaching, we want to remind residents that the City is available to assist those in need of help with well-being checks and other cold-weather services," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in the statement.

"Chicagoans are no strangers to cold and snowy weather, and this season we must all again do our part to shovel sidewalks and look after our friends, family and neighbors in the event of extreme weather," Emanuel said.

Residents who need access to warming center or who have insufficient heat are encouraged to call 311 for help.

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.

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