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Storms rip windows off tower, kill motorist

Swift-moving storms carrying high winds and pelting rain knocked out windows at Chicago's 110-story Willis Tower Friday and killed a motorist in southern Michigan.
Image: Sears/Willis Tower lost two windows during an intense thunderstorm in Chi around 5 pm ET with winds up to 70 mph
The 110-story Willis Tower lost windows Friday afternoon during an intense thunderstorm that also left hundreds of thousands across northern Illinois without electricity.NBC News
/ Source: staff and news service reports

Swift-moving storms carrying high winds and pelting rain knocked out windows at Chicago's 110-story Willis Tower Friday and killed a motorist in southern Michigan.

The storm also knocked out electricity for hundreds of thousands across northern Illinois, southeastern Wisconsin and southern Michigan while delaying Chicago flights and commuter rail.

In Michigan, the Washtenaw County sheriff's department said a driver was killed near Dexter, about 40 miles west of Detroit, when a tree fell onto a vehicle.

The department also said a family escaped after a house in Scio Township was hit by lightning and caught fire.

Police on Friday roped off areas around the imposing black building long known as the Sears Tower. Chicago Battalion Chief Michael Gubricky says windows were blown out in a 29th-floor air conditioning mechanical room and a 25th-floor unoccupied office.

Glass was on the sidewalk, but no injuries were immediately reported near the tower. Authorities say a woman did receive minor injuries from flying glass at the downtown Daley Center blocks away.

Chicago fire officials say another person was seriously injured by a falling tree on the city's west side.

The National Weather Service says winds in excess of 70 mph were recorded as the storm whipped into Chicago.

Isidoro Topete, a bicycle valet, told the Chicago Tribune that he was in Daley Plaza when the heavy rain hit. He said he sought shelter under the overhang outside the lobby of the Daley Center when he heard glass shatter on the east portion of the sidewalk on Dearborn Street.

"It was pretty intense. It all happened pretty suddenly," Topete said.

NBC News reported more outages were expected as across northern Illinois as weakened tree branches were taking more rain and wind thrashings and falling on power lines.

On the North Side, there were unconfirmed reports of a police squad car struck by a falling tree; and on the West Side, firefighters had to extricate a person from under a fallen tree, Fire Media Affairs spokesman Richard Rosado told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Firefighters were called to the Humboldt Park neighborhood for a person trapped under a tree. The person was extricated and taken in serious to critical condition to Mount Sinai Hospital, Rosado said.

Flight delays averaged 60 minutes at O’Hare Airport and 90 minutes at Midway Airport as of 5:30 p.m., according to a statement from the city’s Department of Aviation. No cancellations have been reported.

The weather also played havoc with Metra's schedule, with most lines experiencing weather-related delays of 20 minutes or more, the Sun-Times said.

To the north, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported 19,000 We Energies customers lost  power.

Utility spokesman Barry McNulty told the newspaper that outages were reported predominantly in Kenosha and Racine counties along with outages in Waukesha, Walworth and Milwaukee counties.

The powerful storms brought hail, heavy rain and high winds that downed trees and power lines throughout the area, the National Weather Service in Sullivan reported. At least one house was struck by lightning, the newspaper said.

In Michigan, Consumers Energy said more than 57,000 customers were without power Friday night, with Kalamazoo and Jackson counties the hardest hit. DTE Energy Co. said late Friday nearly 100,000 of its customers lost power.