Severe thunderstorms cause power outages, knock down dozens of trees on campus

A huge storm that struck the Chicago area this morning left more than 60 buildings on campus without power and knocked down dozens of trees around campus, many blown so hard they were uprooted from the ground.

Norris University Center lost power for a few hours, and University Library closed down because of the power outage. Several trees near the library, at the Lakefill and around North Campus fell down due to the strong winds.

Two buildings on campus sustained damage from the storm. The exterior facade of 2020 Ridge Ave., which houses Facilities Management, Accounts Payable and the Office of Alumni Relations and Development, blew into the parking lot, said Gary Wojtowicz, director of Facilities Management Operations. The winds also blew the exhaust fan on the roof of Silverman Hall, 2170 Campus Drive, onto the Allen Center parking lot.

About 35 trees around campus had fallen down, Wojtowicz said.

Behind Norris, several trees along the lakefront were uprooted. A huge willow tree next to the East Lawn of Norris fell down, and some walking paths were closed off due to the tree damage.

Some of these trees are at least 50 years old, Wojtowicz said.

A huge tree on the quad between the library, Annie May Swift Hall and Kresge Hall was also uprooted, and several trees nearby were also knocked down. Facilities Management blocked off the surrounding walkways and worked on clearing the trees throughout the day.

“We focused on making sure that all the fire lanes were clear first,” Wojtowicz said. “They were cleared within the hour after the storm, as well as the main campus roads.”

On North Campus, 62 buildings lost power due to the storm. A few trees also fell, including one outside Kemper Hall.

Several fraternity houses and residence halls in North Campus, which are currently housing summer programs and some Northwestern students, still don’t have power.

There were no reported injuries on campus as a result of the storm, University Police Cmdr. Darren Davis said.

More than 700,000 ComEd customers around Illinois lost power due to the storm, ComEd representative Elisha Zatkowski said. By noon, 158,000 customers had their electricity restored, but 562,000 remained without it. Zatkowski called the storm the most severe in the past 10 years.

“This is definitely going to be a restoration effort that’s going to take several days,” Zatkowski said.

The storm also caused delays and closures for several CTA lines, Chicago Transit Authority representative Lambrini Lukidis said. Debris on the tracks led to shutdowns for the Yellow Line and Purple Line. The Yellow Line reopened around 9:40 a.m., but the Purple Line remained in single-track mode until around 2 p.m.

More than 50 trees and 100 power lines were down around Evanston as of 10 a.m., according to a news release from community information coordinator Eric Palmer. Palmer encouraged Evanston residents dealing with downed trees to call the city’s 3-1-1 line.

The fast-moving storms brought 70 mph winds and hail the size of quarters to the Chicago area around 8 a.m. this morning.

NU and the city had just recovered from several power outages last week, due to storms before the holiday weekend. ComEd and FM finished had just finished restoring powers to the affected campus buildings last Tuesday.

[email protected]

[email protected]