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updated: 7/20/2012 11:52 AM

2,190 still without power; western suburbs hit hardest

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  • Oakwood Hills resident Mark Alfrejd looks over his neighbor's Cottonwood tree Thursday morning. The tree was struck by lightning during Wednesday night's storm.

       Oakwood Hills resident Mark Alfrejd looks over his neighbor's Cottonwood tree Thursday morning. The tree was struck by lightning during Wednesday night's storm.
    Paul Valade | Staff Photographer


About 2,190 ComEd customers remained without power Thursday night in the Chicago area, with the majority in the western suburbs, following a strong thunderstorm that rolled through the region.

In the utility's west region 1,050 customers remained without power as of 9:30 p.m. Thursday, according to a ComEd spokesman.

The numbers of customers affected in other areas include 495 in the utility's northern region, 450 in the southern region and 150 in the Chicago region.

A ComEd spokesman said the majority of those still without power Thursday night, would be back up and running on Friday.

The storm, which started Wednesday night, produced 70 mph wind gusts, snapping tree limbs and downing power lines.

Some of the highest rainfall totals in the suburbs included 3.62 inches in Lincolnshire, 2.86 inches in Round Lake and 2.62 inches in Oak Brook.

Julius Hansen, director of public works for Glen Ellyn, said storm damage was minimal in the village, especially compared to debris that was left behind from a July 1 storm the village is still in the process of cleaning up. The village's public works building, however, was hit by lightning and encountered a power outage, he said.

Lightning also caused damage in the Northwest suburbs, where a cottonwood tree in Megan Bartholomae's Oakwood Hills yard "just exploded" around 10 p.m. Wednesday.

"I thought for sure lightning had hit the house," she said. "I could tell instantly it wasn't just one of the claps of thunder."

Bartholomae said parts of the tree dented her husband's new truck and were flung more than two houses down from her property.

"It could have been worse. It could have landed on the house," she said, adding that despite the damage, the way the tree split apart was "pretty impressive."

Lightning sparked a fire about 12:30 a.m. Thursday at a townhouse in Aurora, Deputy Fire Chief John Lehman said. A resident and her dog sensed the lightning strike, escaped the home and called 9-1-1. Firefighters were able to contain the flames to the attic of one unit of the two-unit townhouse, but the building sustained about $80,000 in damage.

According to the National Weather Service, large amounts of rain fell quickly in parts of the suburbs, including Elgin, where more than an inch of rain fell in a 20-minute stretch.

Gurnee reported 1.05 inches of rain in 35 minutes, while Libertyville had 0.67 inches fall in a 15-minute span and Glen Ellyn had 1.52 inches of rainfall in approximately 90 minutes.

The National Weather Service's Chicago bureau lost Doppler radar during the storm, and released a statement indicating the loss of service was likely due to a lightning strike.

The Arlington Heights Department of Public Works said no trees were damaged from the storm, but that approximately 1,400 residents originally were without power. In Elgin, police reported no significant storm damage, but numerous residential power outages.

Naperville director for electric utility Mark Curran said there are about 154 customers without power, and that many of them are facing outages because a tree fell on a power line. He said lightning also blew some fuses, causing outages for other customers.

AccuWeather meteorologist Paul Walker said the rain won't cure the drought. The heavy rains will run off rather than saturate the ground.

"It's going to help as far as, in the short term, maybe some plants, as far as garden and those things," he said. "In the long term I think we're still going to see we're pretty far behind."

Walker said from the beginning of June to now there has been only about 40 percent of the average rainfall. The average of high and low temperatures in the same period at O'Hare are about 6.6 degrees above normal, he said.

"We're pretty far from where we should be," Walker said. "For the long term we need more of these type of events ... several days of steady light rain so it can soak into the ground."

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