Tornado Touchdown Confirmed

Will County hit, says Sheriff, as thunderstorms roil Chicagoland

By Andrew Greiner and BJ Lutz
|  Friday, Mar 4, 2011  |  Updated 3:24 PM CDT
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A high wind warning expires at 8 p.m. but is replaced by a wind advisory.

A high wind warning expires at 8 p.m. but is replaced by a wind advisory.

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Storms tearing through the Chicago area Tuesday led to hundreds of canceled flights and delays of up to an hour at O'Hare, 76,000 ComEd customers without power and one report of a tornado touching down in the far south suburbs.

Early reports indicate a tornado touched down in Will County between the cities of Beecher and Peotone. The National Weather Service later confirmed the touchdown. The tornado's path was about one mile long and 200 yards wide and was listed by the NWS as a category EF2.

Minor damage was reported. Two children were shaken up when a wind shear or a tornado tore the roof off a home there.

Justin Schroeder, 17, said he and his 16-year-old brother, Jesse Schroeder, were leaving their house to head to school when they were both hit by a pwerful gust of wind.

"It was like a bomb.  He came flying at me through the glass door and we slid into the foyer about five or six feet," recalled Justin.  "It was just so confusing because everything happened within three seconds.

He said he grabbed his dogs and put them in the truck and took them to his grandfather's house.

Jesse Schroeder ended up with minor injuries to his face and hands.

"I've got five stitches in my finger.  I'm going back tomorrow to see what else is wrong with my finger," he said.

In West Chicago, three single-engine planes at the DuPage County Airport were damaged by high winds, officials at the West Chicago facility said.

A tornado watch was issued at 3:30 a.m. for Cook, Kendall, McHenry, Will, Kane and Lake counties, according to the weather service’s website.  It was lifted at 11 a.m.

Air traffic was briefly halted at all Chicago airports in the early morning, and more than 500 flights have been cancelled between Midway and O'Hare.

The FAA lifted its ground stop at O'Hare at 9:30 a.m. but some delays at both airports persisted.  Officials recommend checking flight delays before leaving for the airport.

On the road in Indiana, authorities banned large vehicles from the toll road. Semi tractor trailers pulling oversize loads are prohibited until further notice.

In Lindenhurst, a woman was injured when a dead tree branch fell on her car.  It took first-responders about 20 minutes to get her out of the car, the Chicago Tribune reported.  She was then taken to Condell Medical Center for surgery.

Thousands of ComEd customers are without power. 

As of 5:30 p.m.Tuesday, the greatest number of the outages were in ComEd's northern region, where 8,600 customers were without power, according to spokeswoman Krissy Posey.

Another 5,100 in the city, 7,800 to the south and 8,1000 to the west were without power.  At the peak, ComEd said 76,000 customers were without power.
 
The company had approximately 340 crews in the field "assessing damage and working to restore power," Posey said. 

Residents that see downed power lines should call ComEd at 800-EDISON-1. 

The huge area of low pressure was expected to bring wind gusts of up to 60 MPH, prompting the National Weather Service to issue a  high wind warning beginning at 7 a.m. Tuesday and lasting through 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Chicago earlier Tuesday morning recorded the lowest pressure ever for the month of October.

The Illinois Emergency Management Agency on Monday urged people to be prepared for dangerous situations that could result from the high winds.

"High winds can cause as much, if not more, damage than many tornadoes," said Illinois Emergency Management Agency Interim Director Joe Klinger.

At a joint press event Monday evening, the OEMC, ComEd and the Chicago's Department of Streets and Sanitation said they were preparing for the storm by opening regional storm centers, scheduling extra work crews enhancing staffing and putting other crews on alert.

At 4 p.m., the city said they had reports of 448 tree emergencies, 71 traffic signals out, 63 damaged poles and 36 street lights out.

Reports of downed trees and damage to city property should be reported to the city's non-emergency number: 311.

Lake Michigan is also expected to experience significant waves and storm force winds of 48 knots or greater, according to Chicago's Office of Emergency Management and Communications.

If predictions are accurate, the storm will be the second most-severe to strike the Great Lakes, according to the weather service.

That's stronger than the 1975 storm that sank the freighter SS Edmund Fitzgerald.

Ready.Illinois.govSevere Weather Preparedness Guide (.pdf)

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