UPDATED 07/24/12 – 9:31 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — Severe thunderstorms clobbered the Chicago area early Tuesday, bringing dangerous winds that ripped down trees and cut power more than 300,000 at the height of the outages.
ComEd crews have been working throughout the day to restore power across the area, and it could take until Friday evening before everyone who lost power has it back.
ComEd said as of 9 p.m., approximately 46,800 customers were without power, down from the peak of 300,000 at the height of the outages. Of the remaining outages, 16,000 were in the Chicago area, 3,900 were in the northern suburbs, 12,400 were in the southern suburbs, and 14,000 were in the western suburbs.
ComEd said it expects the vast majority of outages to be restored by late Thursday, with the most severe outages lasting until late Friday.
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And in the Bridgeport neighborhood, a huge tree was uprooted and crushed a home in the 2500 block of South Hillock Avenue. The residents there were not hurt, but the home sustained extensive damage and may have to be torn down.
As CBS 2’s Susanna Song reports, the tree on Hillock Avenue is more than a century old. The homeowners, Bill and Trudy powers, say they nearly lost everything in their home, but they’re thankful they’re alive.
Bill Powers was on the phone with his insurance company Tuesday morning, describing “a devastating accident; a huge tree fell on my house, and everything is caving in and collapsing, and everything.”
When Powers tells his insurance company it’s a big tree, he’s not exaggerating. The trunk is massive, and parts of his home were crushed.
“The walls started caving in, the ceiling started caving in, the floor started caving in, and it was like, all we did was just run outside,” Powers said.
Powers was sleeping in his bedroom when his wife, Trudy, started screaming from the living room.
“The dog started barking and I got up to see what was happening, and the next thing you know, there was a big boom and I couldn’t get the door to the bedroom open where my husband was, and I got scared,” Trudy Powers said.
The family’s home, which had been part of bill’s family for nearly 70 years, is destroyed. The Powerses, who collect antiques, lost a lot of their keepsakes.
“Kids’ pictures – that’s all. That’s all they let me take until they get the tree off of the house. That’s it. We lost everything,” Trudy Powers said. “Everything.”
Ald. James Balcer (11th), who grew up in the neighborhood and knows the family, also came by.
“Unbelievable,” Balcer said. “These trees were here probably 100 years or longer, so it’s a disaster. I’m just glad the family is OK.”
And Bill Powers, who is shaken up, says someone was watching over them.
He said the tree could just as easily have landed “right on the bedroom. Branches, they came right through the ceiling, so it could have very well… I wouldn’t be here talking. You know, I’d be in a hospital, or maybe even worse, be dead.”
The tree was on the city’s property, so the city was a the scene at 11 a.m. trying to get it off of Bill and Trudy Powers’ house.
The storms also caused problems for transportation. South Shore trains from Northwest Indiana were halted as of 7 a.m. because of a power outage caused by the storm. The inbound trains were stopped at the East Chicago station. No trains were running in either direction. South Shore officials said overhead power lines were damaged in Hammond, near Calumet Avenue.
Service began running again around 8:45 a.m., but delays for rush-hour commuters were extensive.
Meanwhile, the Chicago Transit Authority said Pink and Green line trains were delays Tuesday morning because of debris on the right-of-ways. Pink Line trains are operating on one track between the 18th Street and Damen stations, the wire said.
Unconfirmed dispatch reports indicate power lines and trees have fallen across the city, possibly onto cars and other homes, especially on the South Side.
Also, eastbound Route 34 in Oswego, Westbound Route 30 in Merrillville, Ind. near the auto parts shop, and Lake Street west of Grand Avenue in Addison are among the major routes that have been shut down. Downed power lines were to blame in Addison.
In Aurora, downed power lines and a downed utility pole shut down Indian Trial Road between Highland and Pennsylvania avenues.
In Merrillville, in addition to the power outages along the busy U.S. 30 corridor, a roof was torn off a building housing an auto parts store near Broadway.
The National Weather Service says the storm system was accompanied by damaging winds in excess of 60 mph.
CBS 2 Meteorologist Ed Curran said the storm was caused by cold front is slamming up against the hot, humid air.
Rainfall totaled 0.58 inches in Mundelein, 0.52 inches in Wheeling, 0.55 inches in St. Charles, 0.45 inches at the Chicago Botanic Garden, and 0.47 inches at O’Hare International Airport.
After the storms were gone, the temperatures were in the comfortable 70s around most of the Chicago area, and the high is only 86. But that won’t last.
On Tuesday afternoon, a couple of breaks in the clouds may appear, but more rain is expected in the evening. On Wednesday, the temperature returns to the muggy and sweltering range at 98 degrees, with a chance of rain in the morning as the warm front moves north from the southwest and pushes the cold front now over the area away.
A heat advisory has been issued from noon to 7 p.m. for all of southern Wisconsin, most of downstate Illinois, and parts of northern Illinois far west of Chicago. No Chicago area counties are affected, although Curran says that could change.
The high drops back to 86 on Thursday, 85 on Friday, back to 86 on Saturday, 84 on Sunday, and 87 next Monday.