Image: Fans evacuate Lollapalooza
Daniel Boczarski  /  Getty Images Contributor
Fans evacuate Lollapalooza music festival after a severe storm warning on Saturday in Chicago.
NBC News and news services
updated 8/5/2012 9:45:42 AM ET 2012-08-05T13:45:42

The Lollapalooza music festival in Chicago was suspended and tens of thousands of fans were evacuated to shelters on Saturday as the city braced for dangerous storms with high winds, organizers said.

Organizers stopped at about 3:30 p.m. (2:30 p.m. ET), and many of the fans were told to go to one of three underground parking garages designated as "emergency evacuation shelters," the Los Angeles Times reported.

"Our first priority is always the safety of our fans, staff and artists," said Shelby Meade, communications director for C3 Presents, the promoter behind Lollapalooza. "We regret having to suspend any show but safety always comes first."

All told, the festival was closed for about three hours, according to a statement by the organizers.

The National Weather Service office in Romeoville, Illinois, which covers Chicago, recorded wind gusts up to 55 miles per hour on Saturday and had reports of gusts up to 70 mph, some measured, some estimated, said meteorologist Ben Deubelbeiss.

"Heavy rains, wind and lightning are the main threats from these storms," he said.

The worst of the severe weather powered through Chicago late Saturday afternoon and headed over Lake Michigan and northern Indiana.

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The unsettled weather was set to continue in the Midwest and beyond throughout the weekend and into Monday, Weather.com reported. A cold front was set to march across the eastern states on Sunday and Monday, the website said.

This cold weather mingled with a warm, humid air mass will help trigger severe thunderstorms from the eastern Great Lakes and Northeast into the Mid-South, weather.com said.

Downpours were expected ahead of the front and flash flooding was possible, it added.

Festival-goers evacuated
Festival-goers were evacuated from Grant Park in downtown Chicago and directed by police and staffers to three shelter sites along Michigan Avenue in underground garages.

The festival draws nearly 200,000 people to the park each year, and this year is headlined by music acts including the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Black Sabbath and Jack White.

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A year ago, seven people died and 40 were injured when a huge temporary stage at the Indiana State Fair came crashing down amid high winds just before the country duo Sugarland was to begin performing.

Poor communication about predictions of stormy weather approaching the area ahead of the Sugarland concert was among the factors cited in the stage collapse by consultant studies commissioned by the state.

This year, organizers thanked city officials and fans for their reaction to the inclement weather.

"We want to thank the tens of thousands of festival goers, staff, and artists who calmly and safely exited from Grant Park today," Charlie Jones, partner of C3 Presents, which promotes the festival. "We also applaud and thank the City of Chicago for their cooperation and commitment to making Lolla a safe and enjoyable experience for all. Once again Chicago has come through and we’re proud to call the city our partner."

Lollapalooza, initially organized in 1991 by Jane's Addiction singer Perry Farrell, began as a traveling music festival with several dates all summer. After a six-year hiatus starting in the late 90s, the popular alternative music festival began holding its annual concerts only in Chicago in 2005.

Reuters contributed to this report.

© 2013 msnbc.com

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