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Latest Storms Spark Lightning Fires; Flood Threat Continues

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Palatine Flooding

Water cascades from a building in Palatine during the storms overnght. (Credit: CBS)

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UPDATED 07/28/11 1:37 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — The city of Chicago officially has set a new record for rainfall in the month of July, as a new round of storms brought lightning that set homes on fire, and a serious threat of flooding continues.

With the storms overnight, the rainfall this July broke a record set back in 1889 by about 0.2 inches. The current record now is 9.75 inches, but meteorologists say it could increase to nearly 10 inches before the month is over.

Storms this month have also produced some 68,000 lightning bolts in northern Illinois, southern Wisconsin and parts of Iowa, the Sun-Times Media Wire reported.

The all-time wettest month in Chicago history remains August 1987, when 17.1 inches of rain fell. Basements were flooded across the city and suburbs and expressway underpasses were inundated after a particularly severe storm that month.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Bernie Tafoya reports

CBS 2 Meteorologist Megan Glaros says the storms are not over for the day. Another round of storms will sweep in later in the afternoon, with heavy rainfall that could bring a downpour of 1 to 3 inches per hour.

Yet another round of storms is also expected early Friday.

A flash flood watch is in effect through Friday morning for virtually the entire Chicago area, including the city of Chicago and suburban Cook County, and Lake, McHenry, DuPage, Kane, Will, Kendall and DeKalb counties in Illinois, and Lake and Porter counties in Indiana.

A flood warning is also in effect for several areas in northern Lake County near the Wisconsin state line, where 3 to 5 inches of rain have already fallen.

Particularly severe flooding has been seen in Waukegan, which was already hit by floods during a round of earlier this week.

A round of storms that swept through the area around 11:30 p.m. knocked out electricity to some 79,000 customers in the city and suburbs. That figure had been reduced to 55,000 by 10:30 a.m.

WBBM Newsradio 780’s Bernie Tafoya reports the figure comprises 16,000 ComEd customers in the city of Chicago, another 14,000 in the northern suburbs, 21,000 in the western suburbs, and 4,000 in the southern suburbs.

Tiffany Loving of Romeoville has had enough of the rainstorms this record-breaking month.

“Rain, rain, go away, come again another day,” she said.

ComEd plans to have 250 crews out Thursday to restore power to everyone.

Meanwhile, pounding rain and thunder that resembled bombs were spotted all across the area.

The rain caused problems across the Chicago area. In Palatine, it overwhelmed the gutters on one building, sending gushing water from the roof at the height of the storm.

In Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood, drivers woke up to major damage from downed trees. Falling branches busted out the windows of several cars.

The lightning also did some serious damage.

As CBS 2’s Susanna Song reports, the lightning is blamed for at least four fires overnight.

Schaumburg Lightning Fire

Lightning sparked a fire at this home at 509 Dogwood Ct. in Schaumburg.

Lightning struck a home at 509 Dogwood Ct. in Schaumburg around midnight Wednesday night, leaving a hole in the structure of the house, ripping off the aluminum siding, and hurling the window shades to the ground. Schaumburg firefighters said no one was injured.

But a yellow sign now hangs on the house, reading, “This house is uninhabitable.”

Firefighters responded to a second home a short time later less than 2 miles away in the 300 block of Carmelhead Lane, also in Schaumburg. The severity of that lightning strike and resulting fire was not immediately clear.

Lightning also caused a fire at a house in Fox River Grove, where homeowners had to huddle outside as crews put out a fire on the second floor and attic of a house. A neighbor noticed the flame and called 911.

The lightning also took down large branches from a tree in the yard at the house.

“It was a pretty good light showing out there, but when we showed up, you can kind of expect the lightning hits, but this was burning pretty good,” said Fox River Grove fire Deputy Chief Jim Kreher.

The fire was contained quickly, and all residents and pets escaped safely.

A fourth home in Highland Park was also hit by lightning and set afire overnight.

A lightning strike is also blamed for a fire at the City of Aurora Parks and Recreation administration building, adjacent to Phillips Park in Aurora. The building was saved, but sustained severe smoke and water damage estimated at $300,000 altogether.

In Woodstock, lightning also damaged the stonework on the historic Woodstock Opera House, which was featured in the 1993 Bill Murray movie “Groundhog Day,” the Sun-Times Media Wire reported.

As of Thursday morning, a warm front was hovering over the Chicago area, but a clashing cold front will not come through until Friday, thus maintaining a threat of storm activity all day.

During the dry times, conditions will be muggy with a high of 90.

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