3:43 AM EDT, October 20, 2011
High winds and waves buffeted the lakefront this evening, hours after the bike and jogging path was closed following National Weather Service warnings of severe weather and lakeshore flooding.
A high wind warning that went into effect for the Chicago area Wednesday afternoon will remain until 10 a.m.
Wind gusts at the Harrison Water crib, about 3 miles east of the lakefront near Armitage Avenue, were clocked at 59 mph at 4 p.m. and again at 7 p.m., with sustained winds of about 50 mph, according to the National Weather Service. Sustained winds at Oak Street Beach were 43 mph at 7 p.m., and winds at 63rd Street clocked in at 40 mph at 7 p.m.
At 3 p.m., Gary Airport reported 24 mph winds and gusts of 47 mph., according to the weather service.
Meanwhile, the Weather Service's marine forecasts called for waves of about 21 feet in southwestern Lake Michigan near Chicago.
By about 4 p.m., wind gusts near Navy Pier were so strong that walking was difficult.
One man could be seen walking north of Ohio Street Beach along the lakewall east of Lake Shore Drive as a man and woman took cell phone photos of the waves crashing against the shore.
Even inside the breakwall south of Oak Street beach, waves were hitting the concrete and splashing 15 feet in the air. The winds were high enough to make standing difficult.
By about 3:45 p.m., waves crashing onto the lakewall east of Lake Shore Drive near Fullerton Avenue were reaching 15 feet high or higher.
In addition, a forecast of heavy rain and 14 to 25 foot waves has prompted a lakeshore flood warning from 3 p.m. today to 4 p.m. Thursday. Bikers and joggers were threatened with the same treacherous wave activity encountered on lakefront paths late last month, National Weather Service meteorologist Ben Deubelbeiss said.
The lakefront path was shut down from Fullerton to Grand avenues.
The wind pushed some boats into the breakwall near the Shedd Aquarium.
About 7,100 ComEd customers were without power as of 2 a.m. this morning, utility spokeswoman Arlana Johnson said.
The vast majority of outages were in the city and the near west suburbs, while the rest were scattered throughout northern Illinois, she said.
The high winds prompted ComEd it open its emergency command center and put extra crews on duty, Johnson said.
The National Weather Service said north to northeast winds of 40 to 45 mph with gusts up to 60 mph are likely. The strongest winds will be in areas adjacent to Lake Michigan.
Downed tree limbs and power lines are expected, and high-rise dwellers were advised to take in their balcony furniture to keep it from blowing away.
The chance of precipitation is 100 percent. Periods of heavy rain are possible this evening and tonight, with the heavier rain over northwest Indiana and portions of northeast Illinois east of the I-57 corridor.
In all, up to 2.5 inches of rain is expected.
Large waves crashing onto the shore likely will result in flooding this afternoon and tonight. Waves will build to 14 to 18 feet this afternoon and 20 to 25 feet tonight. Waves will gradually subside to less than 15 feet by late Thursday afternoon.
But the waves probably won't force closure of Lake Shore Drive. "The waves may come up on some of the bike paths with some spray on the roadway," said weather service meteorologist Deubelbeiss. "But waves aren't likely on Lake Shore Drive."
Rain is also likely tomorrow.
Today's high temperature will be around 50, although it will feel much colder because of the wind. The low tonight will be in the mid-40s.
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