Chicago Weather: High winds down trees and power lines, close Skydeck

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Wind gusts in excess of 60 mph downed trees and power lines across the Chicago area Wednesday, and even forced the Willis Tower to close its Skydeck on the 103rd floor.

In the Mount Greenwood neighborhood, crews worked to remove a downed tree near 106th and Christiana. The roaring winds were so strong in the western suburbs they brought down a tree in a neighborhood park in Glen Ellyn.

"There was big crash earlier this afternoon and I kind of looked out and I didn't see anything," Christa Mannion said.

Power lines came down with the tree, knocking off power at homes nearby. ComEd crews worked to get it restored.

"I think it is going to be a while because with three or four poles down that is going to take them a while to repair," Mannion said.

A High Wind Warning was in effect for all of southern Wisconsin until 8 p.m. Wednesday, the National Weather Service said. A High Wind Advisory was ub effect for Cook, DuPage, Kane, DeKalb, McHenry and Lake counties in Illinois and Lake and Porter counties in Indiana during the same time period.

Winds this strong can be dangerous. The high winds downed wires and sparked a small fire in Antioch. And in the city, a tree crashed onto parked cars in the Logan Square neighborhood near the intersection of Fullerton and Campbell.

"I've tried to be a little more cautious, especially when walking underneath large trees, especially the soft woods. Just because I've seen a few big branches come down and things like that, so I'm not going to walk through the park today," Edward Suda said.

The plastic covering on a downtown high-rise construction project was seen blowing around Wednesday morning, many stories up into the sky.
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The windy weather is causing some damage across the city.


The weather service said the strong west winds could make travel difficult Wednesday, especially for high-profile vehicles on north-south roads. Indiana banned double and triple trailers Wednesday because of the wind.

"On the drive in, I'd go under a viaduct and the car would swerve after I got underneath it, the wind was so heavy," said Lisa Hodges, of Munster, Ind.

High winds also caused overhead lines to fall on the Metra Electric Line at 91st and Baltimore.

Metra officials also say trains on the BNSF Line will go a bit slowly through the area of 15th and Racine as workers repair an unstable signal bridge. The signal bridge was lifted out of the concrete that anchors it to the ground. Metra says the damage was caused by the high winds Wednesday afternoon.

But gusts depended on where you were. It was picnic and picture-perfect weather along the lakefront, a stark contrast compared to last month when winds out of the east pummeled the shore, shutting down bike and walking paths.

"We were commenting on the color of the water. It's absolutely gorgeous today. And the water was brown, it was winter. Today, spring is here!" laughed Jamie Maida.


ComEd said Wednesday night that 10,000 customers are still without power due to Tuesday night's severe weather. More than 500 crews are in the field working to restore service.

Emergency crews responded to an explosion in a power line caused by lightning in far west suburban Oswego overnight.

The underground gas main near Juniper Street and Hemlock Lane erupted in massive flames after lightning struck around midnight, police said. Oswego firefighters battled to get control of the flames.

Nicor teams inspected the area for safety and damage. Police said no homes in the area are affected.

Cleanup is underway after a reported tornado downstate in McDonough County, where sheets of metal twisted inside the limbs of a tree and a car landed upside down nearby.

Farther north in Rock Island, students at Augustana College were forced to evacuate after a tree fell on a dorm building. No one was injured.

A lightning show in the sky lasted late into the night in western Illinois, where residents are also cleaning up. In Fulton County, west of Peoria, some residents ran to their basement for cover in the village of Avon. There were no injuries reported from the storm.

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