UPDATED 07/11/11 5:48 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — Hundreds of thousands of people were left without power, scores of towns reported damage and the morning commute was delayed for thousands of people as a strong round of storms rolled through the Chicago area.
The storm also temporarily suspended airport operations at O’Hare and Midway international airports Monday morning. As of 2 p.m., more than 200 flights had been canceled at O’Hare and inbound and outbound flights were being delayed up to 90 minutes as a result of the storm. At Midway, inbound and outbound flights were being delayed 30 to 90 minutes, with airlines reporting only minor cancellations.
A severe thunderstorm warning was issued for several northern Illinois counties Monday morning, for a system that produced winds of 70 mph.
The National Weather Service reported wind gusts of up to 60 to 70 miles an hour across the area, including Burbank, Lyons, Arlington Heights, Hometown.
In Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood, a city worker was shocked when she was talking on the phone as lightning struck a transformer at the Streets and Sanitation office at 2352 S. Ashland Av. The victim was taken to University of Illinois Medical Center, where she was treated and released, officials said.
In Palos Hills, the winds toppled a tent and seven workers were injured, although six of those were not serious. WBBM Newsradio 780 reports workers were in the process of taking down the tent, which was from the Friendship Festival at 109th Street and and 88th Ave over the weekend.
CBS 2’s Kris Habermehl reports in a lot near 66th Street and Central Avenue just southwest of Midway Airport, the storms tipped over several semi-trailer trucks.
Just across the street at 6601 S. Central Ave., Carr Lumber lost part of its roof, which got thrown into several other buildings. Bricks were blasted apart, and part of the roof flew through a back wall, into another lot on the back side of the company. No one was injured.
To the northeast in the 2600 block of West 36th Street, in the Brighton Park neighborhood, a tree was torn down by the wind and sent right into a car.
The gusts also blew the roof off a nearby six-flat, sending debris everywhere. People were inside at the time, but no injuries were reported.
In the Andersonville neighborhood, a tree was came down onto Stephen Lepse’s van in the 1600 block of West Bryn Mawr Avenue. Lepse said the tree also came down onto a passing car on Bryn Mawr Avenue, and while the driver got out unharmed, his car was left pinned beneath the tree.
At Route 59 in Mack Road in west suburban Warrenville, a downed power caught fire and buzzed menacingly on the pavement as it burned. A utility pole also caught fire at near Willow Springs Road and Brainard Avenue in Countryside.
In Melrose Park, the Maywood Race Track lost power, and in Gurnee, Six Flags Great America had to close.
And at Washington and Clark streets near CBS 2’s studios, trees were swaying in the wind while the rain came down in sheets and umbrellas were flipped inside out.
North suburban Lake County was also hit particularly hard. WBBM Newsradio 780’s Steve Miller reports damage there was concentrated in a belt running west to east through the middle of the county.
“From the area of Lakemoor and Fox Lake running to the east around Round Lake beach, Hainesville, Gurnee and on into Waukegan,” said the head of emergency management, Kent McKenzie.
McKenzie says the driver of a car in Grayslake received minor injuries when a tree crashed into the car – but fortunately hit the front of the car, McKenzie says, not near the driver’s compartment.
LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Steve Miller reports
Rain came down in sheets Chicago, and thunder was booming like bombs dropping. There were widespread reports of fallen trees across the suburbs and in the city, including Naperville, Oak Park and the city’s north side.
Shuttle buses were pressed into use on the CTA Red Line between the Howard and Morse stations and between the Wilson and Addison stations because of debris on the tracks. The Yellow line service was suspended temporarily and riders were advised to use the 97 Skokie bus. Red Line operations were back up by mid morning.
Also on the CTA, Purple Line service was suspended from Howard to Linden for debris on the tracks. Service resumed around 2 p.m. Monday afternoon, although trains were still experiencing minor delays, according to the CTA.
The winds forced Metra to halt trains on its Union Pacific-Northwest Line. All outbound trains north of Barrington to Harvard and McHenry were stopped during the storm. Service resumed around 9 a.m. with delays of about an hour.
On the Union Pacific-West Line, trains stopped at Elmhurst because of dangerous winds, CBS 2 Digital Assets Manager Rick Kramer reported. By 8:45 a.m., trains were again moving east to Chicago, but delays were reported to be up to 80 minutes.
“The trains stopped wherever they were at the time… so there are passengers out there on trains at various points along the three routes,” Metra spokesman Tom Miller said.
As of around 12:30 p.m., the Union Pacific North Line was running from the city to Waukegan, but not between Waukegan and Zion, because of trees on the tracks. Metra is hoping to have everything back to normal by the evening rush, but officials said it was too early to tell.
Also, flights at both O’Hare and Midway international airports were suspended, according to the city Department of Aviation.
ComEd said that about 852,000 customers lost power during the storm at its peak, the worst outage for ComEd in at least a decade. Officials said it would take days to restore power to all its customers. About 400 ComEd crews were out working to restore power Monday afternoon and ComEd had put out a call for help from Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan.
Crews had restored power to about 305,000 customers by 5 p.m., with more than 541,000 customers still without power at that time.
The hardest-hit region was in the northern suburbs, where 272,000 were still without power as of 4 p.m.; 126,000 were without power in the west suburbs; 89,000 were without power in Chicago; and 54,000 were without power in the south suburbs.
The storms have also brought down trees in Crystal Lake and produced copious lightning. Winds in Crystal Lake were reported at 75 mph.
Transformer damage was reported in several areas, and a semi-trailer truck flipped to its side in Rockford.