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updated: 7/13/2011 11:47 PM

State of emergency in Lake County

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Lake County has been declared a state of emergency because of the damage left behind by a powerful thunderstorm this week, officials said Wednesday.

Lake County Board Chairman David Stolman announced the designation to help facilitate the sharing of resources between counties and municipalities.

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The move also formally requests help from the Illinois Emergency Management Agency for assistance with debris removal, Stolman said.

"While this storm swept through our area quickly, it left significant damage in its wake that will take some time to recover from," he said. "I want to thank Lake County residents for their patience during this challenging time."

He stressed the declaration does not ensure any state or federal disaster assistance will become available. It's the first step to trying to get physical and financial help to the area.

The Lake County Emergency Management agency is compiling initial damage and cost assessments from communities affected by the storm, Stolman said.

Packing winds as high as 70 mph, the storm knocked down trees and cut off power to hundreds of thousands of residents across the region.

As of 10 p.m. Wednesday, ComEd officials said, 124,000 customers remained without power -- 92,000 of them in the state's hardest-hit northern region that includes Lake County. Another 20,000 people are without power in the western region, 7,000 lack power in Chicago, and 4,000 people are without power in the southern region.

ComEd reported roughly 726,000 customers have gotten power back since the storms hit Monday morning, and 700 crews are on scene statewide trying to restore power.

"At this point, we have power restored to 75 percent of our customers, and our goal remains to have 90 percent restored by late Thursday night," ComEd spokesman Paul Elsberg said.

Officials at the state's Emergency Management Agency say they're available to help if needed.

The state can provide Department of Transportation trucks and prison inmates to help with the cleanup. And the Illinois Terrorism Task Force has generators available throughout the state if officials request them, spokeswoman Patti Thompson said.

She said the state remains in close contact with regional emergency officials.

Lake County officials said more facilities that were without power have reopened, but some closures remain.

Wadsworth Road Canoe Launch in Wadsworth, and the Des Plaines River Trail from Washington Street north to the Wadsworth Road Canoe Launch are closed due to downed trees, Lake County Forest Preserve District officials said.

The Brae Loch Golf Course in Grayslake is open for 9-hole play, while the trails at Lyons Woods in Waukegan and McDonald's Woods in Lindenhurst are partially open.

Electricity has been restored to all Lake County Health Department facilities except Mid-Lakes Community Health Center in Round Lake Beach and Avon Township Outpatient Services in Round Lake Park. Those locations will remain closed until the power comes back on, officials said.

Lake County officials said several communities have opened "cooling centers" where residents may seek shelter from the heat and humidity. Residents should contact their local municipality to find out where those are located.

The Lake County sheriff's office has deployed the Reserve Deputy Unit to assist with traffic control at intersections that are not functioning. There are about 87 traffic signals that do not have power out of 700 across the county road system, officials said.

The health department is warning people to throw out all food in freezers or refrigerators that did not remain cold for the last 48 hours. Because two days have passed since storm, it's more than likely all food has spoiled and needs to be thrown out, officials said.

Officials also urged people not to use generators, grills, or other gasoline-, propane- or charcoal-burning devices inside the home, garage, carport or near doors, windows or vents. Those items produce deadly carbon monoxide.

• Daily Herald State Government writer Mike Riopell contributed to this report.

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