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updated: 7/12/2011 7:31 AM

ComEd working to restore power to more than 500,000

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  • Wires are down on Kennicott Avenue at Wing Street after a thunderstorm capable of producing 70 mile per hour winds hit the area Monday morning in Arlington Heights.

       Wires are down on Kennicott Avenue at Wing Street after a thunderstorm capable of producing 70 mile per hour winds hit the area Monday morning in Arlington Heights.
    Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

 

Some residents across the region may be without power for several days as crews work to restore electricity to about 369,000 customers, ComEd officials said.

Monday's storm knocked out power to 868,000 customers, the largest total since at least 1998, the utility said.

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"We didn't keep records the same way before 1998," spokeswoman Judy Rader said. "This is the most since we started using this method to measure."

ComEd officials said "several days" could pass before power is completely restored to all those without power. A more precise timeline was not available.

"This is the worst storm we have ever seen (in terms of power outages)," spokesman Fidel Marquez said earlier Monday.

Winds reached 75 mph and created a seiche on Lake Michigan as the storm raced through the area in roughly 30 minutes, according to the National Weather Service. Although it dropped only about a quarter-inch of rain, the storm caused lightning strikes, uprooted trees and damaged buildings.

Marquez said it did even more damage to ComEd's system than an August 2007 storm that knocked out power to 680,000 customers.

Northern Lake County was hit particularly hard, he said, and ComEd crews set up command centers in Crystal Lake and Libertyville to supervise restoration efforts. About 207,290 customers remained without power in the utility's northern region as of 11 p.m., Rader said.

Another command center was opened in Bedford Park near the CSX Railroad yard in Cook County.

More than 480 crews worked to fix downed power lines and return electricity to the region, starting with essential customers such as hospitals and fire and police stations. Because of severe weather reports, ComEd called crews in advance from Iowa, Pennsylvania and Missouri to help.

As of 6 a.m., 500,000 customers have been restored, but 369,000 remained in the dark.

Along with the 207,000 in the north region still without power, 30,370 remain in the south, 71,378 west and 60289 in Chicago.,

Officials said 900 crews remain out working to restore power this morning, but that it could take several days.

Metra trains experienced delays of up to two hours after operators shut down three Union Pacific lines for up to 50 minutes due to weather warnings. Officials said some trains in areas such as Lake Bluff, Zion, Cary and Waukegan experienced even further delays once they got running due to downed trees and power lines on the tracks.

Metra spokesman Michael Gillis said passengers were alerted to scheduled changes by more than 80 service advisories throughout the day.

Delays and cancellations also affected O'Hare and Midway airports throughout the day, with departing and arriving flights running up to 90 minutes late at both locations. O'Hare saw more than 200 flight cancellations by 4 p.m., while Midway reported only minor cancellations.

As storm cleanup continues, Marquez advised residents to report downed power lines at www.comed.com and to keep their distance.

He said any residents without power who have health issues should move to "a more comfortable area."

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