Cleanup under way from storms; Illinois braces for round 2

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Residents of Chicago’s southern suburbs spent Sunday cleaning up from a series of tornadoes that pelted the region this weekend, while bracing for another round of severe weather.

The National Weather Service said a sprawling storm system generated six separate tornadoes in Chicago’s southern suburbs on Saturday, tearing off the roofs from homes, knocking down power lines and overturning semitrailers. One tornado was reported in the northern suburbs. Several minor injuries were reported. Powerful thunderstorms also swept across northern Illinois Sunday afternoon, causing more damage to areas already picking up from Saturday’s storms. A flash flood warning watch is in effect until Monday night. Saturday’s tornadoes and Sunday’s thunderstorms left about 15,000 ComEd customers without power late Sunday in northern Illinois. Utility spokeswoman Judy Rader said it could take days for crews to completely restore service, because of the severity of the damage. The storms downed power lines, fractured utility poles and damaged some of ComEd’s high-power transmission lines. "The damage to our system was very severe," she said. Seven downed high-voltage power lines closed portions of Interstate 57 for the second day in a row Sunday. Officials aren’t sure when the roadway will fully reopen, but Rader said some areas could be ready overnight Sunday. Sunday’s storms were also causing delays averaging about an hour at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, said Department of Aviation spokesman Gregg Cunningham. He said about 400 flights were canceled at O’Hare Sunday. No major delays or cancellations were reported at Midway airport. Tornadoes first formed Saturday in Livingston and Grundy counties about 4:30 p.m. before roaring northward toward Cook and Will counties. Another large, slow-moving tornado touched down between Richton Park and University Park about 6:30 p.m. and moved northeast, swiping at homes in several other densely populated suburbs. Buildings in some parts of Richton Park sustained major structural damage, officials said. North of Chicago, no damage was reported from the tornado in Mundelein in Lake County. Teams from the National Weather Service were spending Sunday surveying damage to determine the tornadoes’ intensity and path, Ratzer said. While portions of northern Illinois were cleaning up from tornadoes, residents of the central and southern regions of the state were dealing with rising flood waters, after as much as five inches of rain fell Saturday. "We have a lot of sections on the northeast side of towns where the roads are impassable," said Tuscola City Administrator Drew Hole. "In fact, we have so many flooded areas around town that we ran out of barricades." Coles County Coroner Michael Nichols said Sunday that a 71-year-old Mattoon man drowned Thursday when his car was swept by the flooded Kaskaskia River into a deep ravine. "We’ve had some near misses here," he said. "A couple other people were rescued after they were standing on the roof of their vehicles. When they come over these hills, if they’re traveling any speed at all, they’re not able to stop in time before hitting the water." AP ______ Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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