Heavy rain, high winds, and the occasional hailstone brought down trees and power lines across Chicago Monday night. Generated by what WGN meteorologist Tom Skilling described as a perfect “atmospheric recipe,” the thunderstorms, accompanied by 65-mph wind gusts, knocked out electricity for 320,000 ComEd customers, the Chicago Tribune reported, and as of Wednesday morning 70,000 of them remained without power.

Also hit: Chicago’s campus, where the main quads sustained the greatest damage. Students on their way to class Tuesday dodged upturned trees, broken street lamps, and fallen branches. At Ellis Avenue and 56th Street, one tree ripped in half, its canopy landing across the street from its trunk. Rockefeller Chapel also lost a few large trees, as did Ida Noyes, the Law School, and Burton-Judson Courts. “I don’t believe there’s any part of campus that has not suffered some wind damage,” says Bob Tiberg, operations and maintenance director for the University’s Facilities Services. Still working to clear away the mess—a task that will stretch into next week—his office hasn’t yet taken a precise count downed trees, but Tiberg predicts scores were lost, including some left standing but now unbalanced. “It’s staggering.”

While a few campus buildings lost power during the storm, flooding amounted to only damp basements and clogged storm drains. But Facilities Services will be dealing with lost and damaged trees—by far the biggest casualty—for some time, Tiberg says. Replanting them presents a dilemma. “You can’t replace an 80-year-old tree with an 80-year-old tree. We’ll have to figure something out for that.”


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Row 1 photos (left to right): A student climbs over a fallen tree near Ryerson; Most of this tree fell across Ellis Avenue near the tennis courts; Near Swift on the main quad, this tree was completely uprooted.

Row 2 photos (left to right): A main-quads tree took a lamppost top down with it; Branches form a fork near Swift; Tree-removal crews work near Harper quad.

Photos by Dan Dry.

October 4, 2006