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Strong storm puts pause on Pitchfork amid stifling heat; 12K without power

A severe storm that briefly pummeled downtown Chicago Saturday afternoon also put the tunes at Pitchfork Music Festival on pause for awhile as attendees were told to take cover.

Sounds of lightning had filled Union Park, site of Pitchfork, just before 3 p.m., but the bands had played on — at least, until an announcement about 3:40 p.m. that warned festival-goers to leave within 10 minutes.

The band Ex Hex cut their set very short, playing just 20 minutes. Then came intense rain, with many hiding under trees. Some resorted to hiding in portable toilets.

For some, the mass exodus didn’t go too smoothly, as they had to leap over giant puddles on their way out.

The park was reopened at 4:20 p.m., despite the threat of more storms. Bands resumed at 4:50 p.m.

Pitchfork attendees had to dodge some pretty big puddles after an afternoon deluge briefly halted the festivities. | Tina Sfondeles/Sun-Times

Pitchfork attendees had to dodge some pretty big puddles after an afternoon deluge briefly halted the festivities. | Tina Sfondeles/Sun-Times

Elsewhere in the city, numerous lightning strikes were reported, including on a boat in Belmont Harbor, according to the Chicago Fire Department. No one was hurt in that incident.

As of 7:30 p.m., at least 12,000 ComEd customers still were in the dark, mostly in the north suburbs. Electricity was knocked out for as many as 18,000 people in the immediate aftermath of the storms, according to the utility company.

At the outset of the storms, a tornado was spotted in McHenry County near Harvard about 2:30 p.m., but the National Weather Service hasn’t confirmed the twister touched down.

The pummeling storm cells had numerous tornado and severe storm watches were in place through the afternoon, but all of them were canceled by 6:30 p.m., according to the weather service. A flash flood watch is in place for several north suburbs in Lake County until 10 p.m.

The storms rode in on a sweltering air mass that had Chicago flirting with its hottest day of the summer. The mercury only topped out at 89 degrees at O’Hare, though, falling short of the seasonal high of 92 set on June 10 and again on Friday, NWS forecasters said. Heat index values made it feel more like a stifling 100 to 105 degrees out.

Saturday night into Sunday, there is a 40 percent chance of more storms, though they aren’t thought to be as severe as the afternoon’s blasts. Sunday’s high is slated for 87 degrees, forecasters said.

A man walks without his shirt downtown on Saturday. Tempartures were expected to feel as hot as 105 degrees. | Reema Amin / Sun-Times Media

A man walks without his shirt downtown on Saturday. Tempartures were expected to feel as hot as 105 degrees. | Reema Amin / Sun-Times Media