Storm blows through Wilmette; Bicentennial Ash downed
Children inspect the damage to Wilmette's oldest tree after strong winds felled it and knocked out power to parts of the northern suburbs Monday. | Dan Luedert~Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 31, 2011 12:46PM
Monday’s brief but intense windstorm blew down power lines and up-ended trees across Wilmette, leaving thousands — including Village Hall — without electricity.
The storm also toppled the oldest public tree in Wilmette, the Bicentennial Ash.
The lights went out Monday morning at Village Hall, 1200 Wilmette Ave., forcing the village offices to close. Staff returned Tuesday afternoon to answer phone calls from residents, prepare for Tuesday evening’s Village Board meeting, and was expected to fully reopen the doors for business at 7 a.m. Wednesday.
When the storm first blew through the area, an estimated 615,000 ComEd customers were left in the dark, 280,000 or so of them in the north suburbs. Initially, 7,242 Wilmette customers were hit, but by late afternoon, 2,639 of them had been restored, leaving 4,603 still off-grid overnight Monday.
Progress was made Tuesday afternoon, though 2,146 ComEd customers in Wilmette were still without power. Compared to the June 21 violent storm, Monday’s event knocked out power to six times as many residents. The residents still without electricity 36 hours after the storm represented double the amount that lost power during the peak out the late June outages.
The most concentrated blackout areas, Village Manager Timothy J. Frenzer reported, included neighborhoods south of Lake Avenue and east of Green Bay Road, and Central Wilmette along Ridge, Hunter and Glenview roads.
“We are working with (ComEd) to identify the areas of the village where the most customers are out,” Frenzer said, adding that the utility services company hoped to restore the electrical flow to 90 percent of its customers by Friday afternoon.
“Residents’ main concern is getting reliable information from ComEd about when their power will be restored,” he continued. “Unfortunately, we only have the information that is being released to the news media.”
Downed power lines or light outages caused significant traffic disruptions at Lake and Lavergne avenues, and at Lake and Skokie Boulevard, both impacting the Edens Expressway ramps.
Police and Public Works crews fanned out across the village starting Monday morning, Police Chief Brian King said, looking for wind damage and clearing downed trees and tree limbs.
Several traffic lights were out along Lake Avenue between Ridge Avenue and Skokie Boulevard, he said, as well as lights at Crawford Avenue and Old Glenview Road, and at Hunter and Glenview roads.
Power was out at the Wilmette Park District, Communications Manager Shelagh Donaghue said. One of the district’s biggest losses, however, was the district’s Bicentennial Ash.
The tree, which historians said was planted in 1746, had stood, until its defeat by the winds, at the Michigan Avenue entrance to Gillson Park.