Weather Chicago: High Wind Warning issued as damaging gusts hit area

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A high wind warning is in effect, and a number of street lights and trees have been blown over in the Chicago area, especially on the North Side.The wind still is not letting up early Thursday morning, as some will wake up to major damage and cleanup.There is damage all across the Chicagoland area: On Argyle Street, trees and branches snapped and came slamming down on cars below; in some cases, streets are blocked with large trees down in the road.

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The same damage can be seen across Evanston, where light poles and street signs are down.And heavy winds pulled the aluminum from the Radisson Blu hotel downtown.The powerful winds almost knocked people over as they tried to walk their dogs or head outside.So far there have been no reports of any serious injuries but there is a lot of mess to clean up and the winds have not died down yet.About 14,000 Illinois residents appeared to be experiencing power outages Thursday morning, as well. At one point, 100,000 were without power.
Mount Prospect, Joliet and Elgin had more damage, a ComEd spokesman said.More than 1,500 crews were out working to restore power.The Chicago area braced for potentially damaging winds Wednesday, with gusts up to 60 mph, as a low pressure system bore down on northern Illinois.

The National Weather Service issued a High Wind Warning in effect from 6 p.m. Wednesday to 9 a.m. Thursday for the following counties in Illinois: Central Cook; DuPage; Kane; Lake; McHenry and Northern Cook; and a Wind Advisory in Indiana: Adams; Allen; Blackford; Cass; De Kalb; Elkhart; Fulton; Grant; Huntington; Jay; Kosciusko; La Porte; Lagrange; Marshall; Miami; Noble; Pulaski; St. Joseph; Starke; Steuben; Wabash; Wells; White and Whitley.

Meteorologist Greg Dutra said this area did see wind gusts between 50 and 60 mph.

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As of about 5:30 a.m., O'Hare has reported a total of 42 cancelations and Midway has five, according to the Chicago Department of Aviation.A light pole crashed through at Canal and Van Buren streets early in the evening Wednesday; an Old Town tree crashed down onto a vehicle in the 1400-block of North Wells; and loose bricks on a vacant building at 56 E. Chicago Ave. brought out Battalion 1 from the Chicago Fire Department to manage the hazard.Chicago also set a new record high Wednesday when O'Hare hit 65 degrees, breaking the old record of 64 set in 1971.The last time there were 60s in December was on Dec. 26, 2019, when it hit 61 degrees. The last time it was as warm as 65 degrees at any point in December was Dec. 4, 2017.Another record was set at midnight, when the temperature hit 66.On a record breaking warm weather winter day in the city, crowds were out in force, sans those heavy jackets, but gusty winds could wreak havoc on your holiday decorations.

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"The wind is not your friend during the holiday season.," said Kelly Fitzsimmons, owner of Light Up Your Holidays, a professional holiday lighting service.She said making sure your lights, garlands and fixtures are secure should be your No. 1 priority, and she has some tips."When our winds are wicked, there's no way your inflatables are truly going to stay up so you can choose to deflate them," she said. "We don't want this blowing out in the street and hitting a car, so security-wise you have your strong weights."

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She recommends three anchor points for large inflatables."With tree installation, it's really important to actually secure the lights to the trunk and you see this connection is way far off the ground so water won't penetrate," she said, pointing to a power connection high up a tree trunk. "And we also weave the lights to the inside of the branch."And for the garlands and wreathes, "notice what we have installed here is a stainless steal screw, which we wrap with wire, and this baby is not going anywhere," she said.Fitzsimmons said the display in this story is much less traditional and classical compared to what most of her clients request, but certainly colorful and entertaining.Vendors at the downtown Christkindlmarket also prepared for the overnight storm."They made an announcement at the beginning of the day today that said, if the wind gets really bad, they might shut down the market early," said one vendor.
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