Wind Takes Out Morton Salt Billboard

A high wind warning remains in effect until 10 a.m. Thursday near the lake

Chicagoans learned their lesson about running and biking in high wind, but one lady couldn't escape: the Morton Salt Girl.

Wednesday's high winds knocked down the massive Morton Salt billboard that's visible from the Kennedy Expressway.

A high wind warning went into effect at 3 p.m. Wednesday in anticipation of 20- to 25-foot waves, winds between 40 and 45 mph and steady rain.

"Today's weather can cause serious injury if not taken seriously and the recommended precautions are ignored," OEMC Executive Director Gary Schenkel said in a statement encouraging extreme caution.

Gusts as high as 60 mph could lead to a replay of the high waves that knocked down runners and bikers last month along the lakefront. Chicago Police closed the lakefront path that day also, and on Wednesday they again warned people to stay away.

Chicago's lakefront path closed for the second time in as many months for strong winds driving towering waves.

But that didn't stop a pack of jet skiers who couldn't resist Mother Nature's offering and took to the water at Diversey Harbor.

"Me and and my friends come out every time we see the wind and the waves 18 feet, 15 feet, we're out there," said skier Ernie Lopez. "It's normal to us. We're professionals."

Chicago police handed out warnings.

As the wind picked up, so too did the calls for emergency services. Glass from a high-rise at Wabash just north of Chicago Avenue showered to the street below.

"The high winds -- we don't want anything to happen to anyone walking by, so as a precaution we're blocking off the street, the sidewalk and everything, just for personal safety," said Chicago Fire Department Lt. David Bresnahan.

About 6 p.m., a part of scaffolding on a buliding in the 600 block of West Washington Boulevard fell onto a parked car, police said. It’s unclear whether anyone was injured.

All Northwestern University games along the lake were canceled Wednesday for the potentially dangerous wind. 

Along with the wind, a lakeshore flood warning also went into effect at 3 p.m. Inland, the wind is expected to increase to 40 to 45 mph with gusts to 60 mph. Unseasonably cool temperatures continue with highs between 48 and 52. 

The wind and rain continues through Thursday. Rain totals are projected between a half-inch to one-and-a-half inches.

Chicago should dry out Friday and Saturday with sunshine returning and temps leveling out by the weekend.

ComEd Keeping an Eye on Storm

The winds could be strong enough to topple trees and power lines and knock out power to some customers. At 9:45 p.m., ComEd reported about 6,500 power outages: 3,200 in the city, 2,000 in the northern suburbs, 900 in the western suburbs and 400 in the south.

A spokesman said crews remain on standby for any and all emergencies.

Wind, Rain Affecting Travel

The high winds are already taking its toll on air travel. At 8 p.m., airlines at O'Hare International Airport reported delays of about 90 minutes due to weather locally and along the nation's east coast. About 175 flights were canceled altogether.

Delays at Midway International were worse, with some up to two hours.

Travelers are urged to keep in touch with their airlines before heading to the airports.

Those driving on roadways should use extra caution. Wind can blow debris and topple some large vehicles. Rain could reduce visibility.

Be careful out there, but if you see wind damage and can snap a photo, please share it with us:

The Morton Salt billboard visible from the Kennedy Expressway was blown over in Wednesday's wind and rain storm. (Photo: Jason Erkes)
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