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WEATHER ALERT: Severe storms expected late this afternoon and evening

Springfield residents go days without power after ‘widespread, devastating’ derecho winds

A utility pole lies in a parking lot on Friday, June 30, 2023, snapped off in derecho winds that hit Springfield, Ill., a day earlier along with a string of others on an east-side commercial strip just west of Interstate 55. (AP Photo/John O'Connor)

SPRINGFIELD — The fierce derecho that tore through Springfield late last week snapped massive utility poles and trees, causing widespread power outages that are expected to leave many homes in the dark for several more days, officials said Monday.

The severe weather phenomenon often described as an inland hurricane kicked up straight-line winds of 70 mph (110 kph) or more, driving rain horizontally when the ferocious storm erupted Friday in the Midwest.

The destruction was so extensive that municipal utility crews surveying neighborhoods over the weekend often found damage so severe that they made plans to return later to make repairs.

“It seems like it should be an easy fix, but it isn’t. So we want our citizens to know that we hear you; it’s hard, we know you’re without power,” Mayor Misty Buscher said. “We’re doing our best to restore your power as quickly as possible and assess the damage.”

The destruction easily matches that of other Springfield-area weather disasters of recent memory, including a March 2006 tornado and 1978’s surprise Good Friday ice storm, said Doug Brown, chief utility engineer for City Water, Light & Power. But while the tornado’s heaviest damage was localized, for example, the derecho wreaked widespread havoc.

With 10,000 customers without power, CWLP estimates 3,000 more restored by the end of Tuesday, another 3,500 by Friday, and 2,500 by Sunday, leaving 1,000 residents still in the dark.

“We’re still not able to see every piece of damage across the city. It is widespread, it is devastating,” Brown said. Repair crews “go into an area, they assess it, and then if it’s an easy repair they can get to it. And if not, then they have to back off and bring in other people or crews, more material. That delays things.”

Picture of Associated Press

Associated Press

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