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» »Unlabelled » Storm caused power loss for 868,000 in Chicago area, service restored to 502,000

ComEd workers repaired downed lines in the alley behind Ozark Avenue near Montrose Avenue in Norridge. (Terrence Antonio James/Tribune)

Commonwealth Edison Co. reported substantial progress in restoring power lost in Monday's storms but that still left hundreds of thousands without electricity in sweltering heat. The utility warned it could take days to get everyone back on line.

ComEd: Service restored to 502,000A record 868,000 homes and businesses were left without power by the storms that ripped through the area at 75 mph--the highest number of outages in 13 years. But by 11 a.m. that had been reduced to about 350,000.The majority were in the northern suburbs, where 196,000 were still in the dark and without air conditioning. About 72,000 were west of the city, 53,000 in Chicago and Maywood and 29,000 in the south suburbs.

In total, power had been restored to 502,600 customers, the utility said.

The last time a storm left a comparable number of customers without power was in 1998, when 865,000 customers lost power in one storm.

ComEd spokesperson Tony Hernandez told WGN radio's John Williams Monday afternoon that "this is going to be one for the record books."

The company warned it could take days to restore all power. It had 480 crews out working, with more being called in from neighboring states.

The good news today was that no more severe weather was expected in the area, although it will be hot and those without air conditioning will be uncomfortable. Today is forecast to be mostly sunny with a high of 85.

The fast-moving storms halted flights, stopped trains and even blew down a festival tent in Palos Hills.

In Palos Hills, seven workers taking down the tent suffered minor injuries when the high winds picked up the tent and tent poles at the site of the Palos Hills Friendship Fest at 109th Street and 88th Avenue near Moraine Valley Community College. Two of those injured were part of the Cook County Sheriff's Work Alternative Program, non-violent, misdemeanor offenders out of the Cook County Jail who were doing community service under supervision. A Palos Hills parks department employee, two Palos Hills Public Works Department employees, and an employee of McCook-based Classic Party Rentals were also hurt in the incident.

The high winds affected Metra's Union Pacific West, Northwest and North lines, with delays of about 45 minutes to an hour, according to spokesman Tom Miller and Metra's website. About two dozen Union Pacific trains were stopped until about 8:45 a.m., and the speeds of Burlington Northern-Santa Fe trains were reduced, Miller said.

Metra sent out more than 80 service advisories due to delays on its lines, primarily caused by the storm.

The CTA reported major delays on all its rail lines until late morning. For a time, service on both the Purple and Yellow lines was halter completely because of debris on the tracks and electrical problems.

Flights were grounded at both O'Hare and Midway airports for about 45 minutes. About 200 flights were canceled at O'Hare but only a few at Midway, according to the Chicago Department of Aviation. As of about 1:30 p.m., delays of 90 minutes were being reported for inbound and outbound flights at O'Hare, and delays of 30-90 minutes for some flights at Midway.

The Chicago Fire Department had at least three reports of people trapped in cars with large tree limbs on them, but there were no reports of injuries.

In the city, 36 traffic signals had been reported out of service because of power outages, 144 city electrical wires were reported downed and 70 light poles were damaged, according to Chicago Transportation Department officials.

In Chicago, there were 2,500 tree emergencies reported to 311. Of those, 350 have been taken care of with 60 of those blocking trees.

Trees hit homes and power lines throughout theChicago area, with branches 8 to 10 inches thick down throughout the area, especially in the north and northwest suburbs, according to the National Weather Service.

Several semi-tractor trucks were reported knocked over by winds, including on 65th Street at Menard Avenue in Chicago and on Interstate 94 at Illinois Route 176 in Greek Oaks in Lake County.

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