Over 250,000 still without power after storm

July 12, 2011 (CHICAGO)

More than 850,000 customers lost electricity Monday when the storm hit. ComEd said Tuesday that its crews were working to restore electricity. Many of the crew members have been brought in from outside of the Chicago area to help.

At around 6 p.m., a ComEd spokesperson told ABC7 that approximately 288,000 people were still in the dark, with the majority in the northern suburbs where 161,000 did not have electricity. In the western suburbs, 63,000 people were without power as were 23,000 residents in the southern suburbs . About 41,000 city customers were without power.

On Tuesday afternoon, ComEd chairman and CEO Frank Clark said that he is committed to getting 75 percent of his customers back online by Wednesday at midnight and 90 percent by Thursday. The rest, Clark said, will probably have power by Saturday.

ComEd said this is the worst storm since 1998 because of the high wind and the lightning strikes. Clark said there were 18,000 lightning strikes during the short, brief storm.

Northern suburbs hardest hit

McClure's Garage has been open for business in Gurnee since 1910. The family-owned business was not about to let the lack of electricity to close them down, even if it meant not getting power until Friday. That is what the village told owner Jack Fallos.

"It slows things down. Might have to go back to the old fashioned way of jack stands and jacks and crawling on creepers. Got to keep the business going," said Fallos.

In Mundelein, several neighborhoods remained without power. Tom Peterson was able to save $300 worth of meat by buying a $700 generator, and he is lucky to get one. Peterson was put on a generator waiting list.

"I got called last night at 9 o'clock. And I was up at the Menards in Mundelein, I was up there in five minutes and they had 24 generators come in on a truck, and I got there and I was number 20 in line," said Peterson.

Others relied on the old fashioned way to cool food: bags of ice.

Bill Tisch said he just is trying to make do.

"Drank tea this morning instead of coffee, I had to fumble around for matches to light the electronic ignition stove. I realize I take things for granted until they're missing. You walk around and you're still flipping switches and stuff like that, like it's going to go on," said Tisch.

Nancy Hundley took advantage of her camper parked in front of her house.

"We got the fridge running in the camper and are able to put food in there and drinks in the cooler on the front porch," she said.

With several wires down and traffic lights out, ComEd said its 24/7 crews are committed to getting 90 percent of customers back online by Thursday.

"We are sparing no expense. We have reached out across this country to bring in support to get our customers back," said Clark.

By the end of the week, ComEd said it will have about 350 crews from around the country working on downed lines and traffic lights.

ComEd said the best way to report a downed wire or an outage is via their website, www.comed.com. Customers can also resigster complaints with ComEd on Twitter or on the telephone.

Chicago's Southwest Side cleans up

Not only were residents in one Southwest Side neighborhood clearing away the mess Tuesday, but some of them were looking for new places to stay. Hurricane-force winds leveled a lot of trees, included one tree that was ripped out of the ground near 37th Street and Leavitt, so big it was laying across the front of four homes.

Part of it slammed down in front of Raquel Castrejon's house. Some of the large branches damaged her SUV, and police say several other residents were forced out of their homes.

"Everybody was in shock. Everybody ran out because everybody didn't know what happened until we came outside like, 'Wow!'" Castrejon said.

The tree sliced though another home's second-floor living room window, neighbors say, while a mother was inside giving her children a bath.

"It's hard to explain it. It was like a small tornado," Castrejon said.

City crews have started to cut up the monster tree, which residents and workers estimate was 150 years old. Crews also removed a street sign pole that was damaged in the storm. One worker told ABC7 the rest of the clean-up process would be complicated and require a crane.

" I have been on the streets for 28 years and never seen anything like this. That tree -- look at the building. It knocked it down to the second floor," city worker Dan Spychala said.

Not only are neighbors dealing with home damage, but they are in awe of what the 75-mile per hour winds did to McKinley Park. Trees were leveled in within minutes.

"I have lived here 65 years and never seen anything like this. They have been fixing the park up for years. A lot of people go there to enjoy it and walk around. Now, it looks like a war zone," said Jannice Demitro, resident.

Crews say 2,500 tree emergencies have been reported in the city of Chicago alone.

In north suburban Gurnee, Chopper 7HD spotted crews racing to get power back on. Hundreds of thousands of resident are waiting for air conditioning, and restaurants are trying to save food from spoiling.

"We can't have this stuff out," said Chicago area restaurant owner Mario Marudas. "The fridge is out. So, we just basically wait on it and hope that ComEd can put some good luck for up and get this stuff back on. We're kind of hoping we can sit and wait on it.

ComEd says its crews are working overtime to restore power. Additional workers were called in from Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

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