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Damaging winds batter Chicago area

Damaging wind gusts of more than 60 mph across the Chicago area Friday forced several Loop buildings to evacuate and have left nearly 45,000 ComEd customers without power.

Peak afternoon wind gusts of 62 mph were recorded at O’Hare, with 61 mph gusts at Midway, according to the National Weather Service. A high wind warning expired at 6 p.m., though blustery conditions are expected to last through the night.

A 35-story building in the 100 block of North Wacker Drive was ordered evacuated about 2:30 p.m. after high winds blew out several windows, according to Chicago Police.

Three buildings on the block were still evacuated as of 9 p.m. as Wacker remained shut down between Washington and Randolph, according to the city’s emergency management office.

Lake Street was also shut down between Canal and Franklin. The streets were expected to reopen about 7:30 a.m. Saturday, officials said.

Police also reported shaky scaffolding the 2000 block of South State; flying roofing material in the 1800 block of West Walnut; and a partial building collapse on West Fulton Street. No one was reported injured, but some vehicles were damaged.

As of 11:30 p.m., power was out for about 35,000 ComEd customers in Cook County, including more than 23,000 in Chicago, according to the utility company. More than two thousand DuPage County customers were in the dark along with 744 in Lake County.

The numbers were steadily declining from a high of 258,000 without power Friday afternoon, according to a statement from ComEd. Power should be restored to most customers by 11 p.m. Saturday.

Winds also downed power lines over the CTA’s Green Line tracks, with service still suspended between the Ashland and Clark/Lake stops at 11:45 p.m. Track debris halted Pink Lines as well between Polk and the Loop, according to the CTA. Free shuttles were running between the affected stops.

By 9 p.m., more than 260 flights had been canceled at O’Hare Airport, with delays averaging 45 minutes, according to the city’s Department of Aviation. Operations at Midway had settled back to normal.

Winds were expected to calm down by Saturday, as unseasonably warm temperatures rise to the 60s with plenty of sun, forecasters said.