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Derecho leaves area with damage, power outages

 Storm uproots tree near Lake Springfield.
Randy Eccles
Storm uproots tree near Lake Springfield.

The National Weather Service said straight-line winds and possible tornadoes left widespread power outages, knocked down trees and power lines and damaged some structures.

The aftermath in the Springfield made afternoon travel difficult, with numerous traffic lights inoperable. Some emergency communication lines were interrupted.

“We do have reason to suspect there were touchdowns in Logan and Sangamon counties,” said Lincoln-based National Weather Service meteorologist Mike Albano. One suspected touchdown occurred at I-55 near Lincoln. A tornado warning was issued just after noon Thursday for Sangamon County. Curran and Chatham also sustained what is considered possible tornado damage.

The National Weather Service has determined the storm was a derecho. That is classified as a widespread, long-lived wind storm that is associated with a band of rapidly moving showers or thunderstorms variously known as bow echoes, squall lines, or quasi-linear convective systems. By definition, if the wind damage swath extends more than 240 miles (about 400 kilometers) and includes wind gusts of at least 58 mph (50 kt) or greater along most of its length, then the event is classified a derecho.

A wind gust of 61 mph at Capital Airport at 12:17 p.m. One registered 60 mph in Lincoln and 75 mph at Decatur Airport.

The Laborer Disaster Response Team was deployed by Springfield Police Department to affected areas in Springfield.

City, Water, Light and Power's Doug Brown said there were more than 100 locations of power lines on the ground. He said most were due to broken utility poles. Brown estimated many areas might have to wait 24-48 hours or even longer to have power restored due to the scope of damage.

As of 5:30 a.m. Friday, CWLP reported 24,000 customers without electricity.

Springfield and Chatham each issued a State of Emergency. Springfield Mayor Misty Buscher also issued a curfew.

"The damage and destruction to the City is to such an extent that extraordinary measures must be taken to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the City of Springfield and its residents," Buscher said,

The curfew was imposed in all public places within the corporate limits of the City of Springfield from 10:00 p.m. on June 29, 2023 to 5:00 a.m. on June 30, 2023.

Earlier in the day, a city press release said, “Phone lines are extremely busy, and some emergency phone lines are down too. Residents are encouraged to stay indoors, stay off the roads and to stay away from trees where power lines could be involved. Major electric damage and emergency trouble for CWLP can be reported to our dispatch or dispatch voicemail at 217-789-2121 or overflow reports can be made to 217-789-2393."

“Customers should not attempt to clear trees or other debris from lines and all lines should be treated as live even in areas where power is out. Drivers should proceed cautiously as traffic lights could be out and plan to treat intersections as a four-way stop.”

Due to high call volume, customers do not need to report their power outages at this time. Customers can view and track their electric service status by inputting their street address and phone number from the outage map athttps://outagemap.cwlp.com/.

More information and updates on outage status will be posted as available on the CWLP Facebook and Twitter pages,www.facebook.com/4CWLP,www.twitter.com/CWLP_.

Those needing Springfield Public Works assistance can call 217-789-2246.

The areas known to be most affected were Springfield, Chatham, New Berlin, Loami, Riverton and Buffalo, according to the Sangamon County Sheriff.

Chatham reported a significant portion of the town without power Thursday night. "While power is being restored in some areas of the village, it is anticipated that portions of town with extensive damage may be without power for multiple days," a statement read.

Springfield Sen. Doris Turner issued a statement later Thursday. "I have requested a disaster proclamation to ensure state and federal dollars can assist in cleaning up and building back our community."

Maureen Foertsch McKinney is news editor and equity and justice beat reporter for NPR Illinois, where she has been on the staff since 2014 after Illinois Issues magazine’s merger with the station. She joined the magazine’s staff in 1998 as projects editor and became managing editor in 2003. Prior to coming to the University of Illinois Springfield, she was an education reporter and copy editor at three local newspapers, including the suburban Chicago Daily Herald, She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Eastern Illinois University and a master’s degree in English from UIS.
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