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Southland cleans up after storm

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Updated: July 27, 2013 6:34AM



Chainsaws and portable generators Tuesday drowned out the more tranquil sounds of summer in some areas of the Southland, as residents cleaned up in the wake of Monday night’s storms.

Thousands of homes and businesses remained without power late Tuesday, and ComEd said that while it expected to restore electrical service to all by Wednesday night, “a few pockets” in the south suburbs might not see power restored until later in the week.

ComEd spokeswoman Krissy Posey said the south and southwest suburbs saw more extensive outages than other parts of the Chicago area. Initially, about 270,000 customers were without power, ComEd said, and by Tuesday afternoon 54,000 lacked electricity, with the Southland accounting for much of the total.

ComEd said winds gusting as high as 75 mph snapped large tree branches and downed power lines. At some of Tinley Park’s weather monitoring stations, winds of 70 mph were recorded, said Pat Carr, the village’s director of emergency management.

A stretch of Ridgeland Avenue between 175th and 177th streets in the village remained closed Tuesday afternoon as ComEd crews worked to repair downed power lines, Carr said.

The utility said 500 crews were deployed in the restoration work and noted that those efforts could be hampered should more severe weather hit the area.

In Oak Lawn, village officials said not enough of those crews had been assigned to the village. About 3,500 residents were still without power as of Tuesday night, according to Mayor Sandy Bury, who described ComEd assigning only three crews to the village as “disappointing” and “frustrating.”

The Oak Lawn Community Pavilion is open 24/7 as a cooling center until power is restored throughout the community, Bury said.

Trustee Alex Olejniczak (2nd) said ComEd has provided few answers regarding the cause of the outages or what’s being done to resolve them.

“I think that’s unacceptable,” he said. “... I don’t see an actionable plan. I think they (ComEd) owe us an answer. I’m very, very frustrated with this.”

He also criticized ComEd for failing to coordinate linemen with tree trimmers, saying that if tree branches can’t be removed from downed lines, linemen cannot restore them.

‘I got my treehouse’

Jacques Lopez, of Oak Lawn, said jokingly, “I got my treehouse that I always wanted. You have to laugh about it, otherwise you cry.”

Lopez’s “treehouse” came courtesy of the wild storm, which sent a 200-year-old oak tree crashing into the front of his family’s Cape Cod home in the 9600 block of South 50th Court.

The tree was on a neighbor’s parkway and was uprooted by the storm. It smashed into the attic, mostly obliterated the house’s front entrance and cracked a wall in the front parlor.

The family has homeowners insurance. Fortunately, neither Lopez, a sewer division supervisor for the Oak Lawn Public Works Department, nor his wife Doreen nor their daughter Jessica, 22, were home when the tree fell. They had gone to the Sesame Inn in Evergreen Park for an early dinner so they could watch the Blackhawks game. Son Justin was out of town for work.

When the family returned home, “we were in shock,” Doreen said. “You couldn’t see the house at all. It was all tree.”

The huge, uprooted tree fast became a draw for the curious as countless gapers slowly drove down the block for a peek. Some stopped with offers to help.

The Lopez family have lived in the house for 27 years, and this was their second close encounter with a tree. Three years ago, a falling tree smashed into their back porch.

“You can fix houses,” Doreen said.

Contributing: Bob Rakow



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