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posted: 11/18/2013 7:16 AM

Spared: Gusts hit 59 mph at O'Hare

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While tornadoes touched down in portions of central Illinois Sunday, causing widespread damage, the Chicago area seemed to be spared the worst of the severe weather.

All of the suburbs were under a tornado watch late Sunday morning and into the early afternoon. Severe thunderstorms that passed through the area featured 60 mph wind gusts and quarter-sized hail, according to the National Weather Service.

In McHenry County, funnel clouds were spotted late Sunday morning, dropping out of the clouds and then retreating again, said Bob Ellsworth, the assistant director of the county's emergency management agency. Ellsworth said none touched the ground or caused any damage.

By early afternoon, the weather had calmed considerably in the suburbs, to the point where towns like Arlington Heights enjoyed a bit of sunshine. A quick check revealed that few, if any, towns experienced serious problems because of the weather Sunday.

There were reports of flash flooding in Aurora and authorities in Lisle, which had been hit hard by flooding in the wake of an intense storm in April, said the village experienced just minor issues Sunday, consisting mostly of temporarily flooded streets. Other areas of DuPage County, including Naperville, Wheaton and Glen Ellyn, reported no major issues.

The storm did cause some power outages. ComEd reported that 75,000 customers in its coverage area were without power Sunday afternoon. The outages happened all over the city and suburbs. Neighborhoods in or near Schaumburg, Lake in the Hills, Wheaton and Waukegan were among the spots affected.

Some scattered outages remained early Monday morning, with eastern McHenry County and western Lake County among the areas still reporting some outages.

Downed trees and power lines blocked several streets in Crystal Lake, where more than 1,500 ComEd customers were without power Sunday. Police there said Route 176 between Route 14 and Hickory Drive would be closed until further notice because of damaged utility poles and power lines in the area.

Metra reported extensive weather-related delays, including canceled trains on its North, Northwest and West lines in the midafternoon. In Chicago, officials at Soldier Field cleared fans from the stadium seating area and suspended play during the Bears-Ravens game. The game resumed at 2:25 p.m. after a nearly two-hour delay.

After a period of relative quiet, winds picked up in the Northwest suburbs at about 3:30 p.m. The National Weather Service reported wind gusts of 59 mph at O'Hare International Airport shortly before 4 p.m.

Matt Friedlein, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said such strong storms are rare this late in the year because there usually isn't enough heat from the sun to sustain the thunderstorms. But he said when temperatures reach into the 60s and 70s, it is warm enough to help produce severe weather when coupled with winds, which are typically stronger this time of year than in the summer.

"You don't need temperatures in the 80s and 90s to produce severe weather (because) the strong winds compensate for the lack of heating," he said. "That sets the stage for what we call wind shear, which may produce tornadoes."

Tornadoes occur more often this time of year than people might realize, Friedlein said, noting that a twister hit the Rockford area in November 2010.

The National Weather Service service confirmed a tornado was down on the ground near South suburban Frankfort Sunday afternoon. Another tornado hit near East Peoria just before 11 a.m.

• Daily Herald Staff Writer Matt Arado and The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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