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Severe Storms Have Lake Forest Considering Outage Emergency Plan

Price tag from three significant storms in the past month: $180,000.

Over the past month, it has seemed that as soon as city crews made some headway in the cleanup and repair process from a major summer storm, another one would blow through, forcing them to start over again.

Three damaging storms have downed countless trees, limbs and power lines in the past three weeks, bringing endless power outages that have brought frustration to Lake Forest residents and city officials alike.

The received a breakdown of the total damage from the storms at its first meeting since all three occurred.

Each storm was different in nature, and hit during a different time of the day. However, the high frequency has led to city leaders to consider taking serious steps to come up with an emergency plan for power outages in the city.

“We do have a snow emergency plan, and a storm water emergency plan,” said City Manager Bob Keily, regarding the establishment of a similar plan in the event of a long term power outage plan.

The first storm, which occurred at , required the fire department to activate the emergency sirens.

In its aftermath, 16 traffic lights went dark in Lake Forest, 57 emergency response calls were logged, and 4,600 residences were without power.

The second storm primarily hit the lakefront in Lake Forest in the early evening of June 30, and resulted in many downed trees and hanging limbs in the Forest Park area, some of which still were in need of removal when blew through early in the morning on July 11.

The third storm resulted in more downed trees and power lines, and knocked power out to 1,700 Lake Forest residences – some for several days.

Public Works Director Michael Thomas provided city leaders additional statistics on what it has taken to clean up from all three of the significant storms.

Overall, the storms generated:

  • 2,300 cubic yards of brush and logs, equaling 23 full garbage trucks.
  • 300 cubic yards of wood chips, equaling 15 semitrailers.
  • More than 20 public works vehicles mobilized each day.
  • 22 chain saws.
  • 356 hanging branches in city-owned trees
  • 81 city owned-trees lost.
  • 18 hanging limbs still pending removal
  • 35 yet to be removed from Forest Park.

According to Thomas, under the circumstances, the city’s recovery went well, which he credited to the resources his department has for such emergencies.

“The key to the success of this is the equipment we have,” he explained.

The city's total cost to recover from the storms is estimated at $180,000, which includes $43,000 in overtime for city workers.

Many city officials expressed frustration with the communications deficiencies between themselves and ComEd, which was charged with restoring the power service to Lake Forest, as well as every other municipality in the Chicago area, affected by the storms.

“We cannot be dependent on ComEd, as much as we would like to,” Keily said.

In order to establish a better system of communication with residents, city leaders are considering expanding their “Code Red” emergency service. The service alerts residents by phone about incoming severe weather to include status updates on power restoration in the aftermath of future storms of a similar nature.

“These power outages have been more frequent,” said Mayor James Cowhey. “We need to take the initiative and come up with a plan on our own.”

Bonita July 19, 2011 at 11:39 AM
I am encouraged that City officials are deciding to take some extra steps! The City is our advocate, and has far more "clout" with Com Ed than any of us! Rumors of "sizzling trees" remaining on power lines for days on end cannot make us feel safe! Hearing that the city could not get through to Com Ed was shocking! We need someone at City Hall with a direct line--not automated -- to Com Ed to report dangerous situations.

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