CHICAGO -- The annual Chicago Pride Parade was halted due to a severe weather warning that left more than 100,000 people without power Sunday afternoon.
Commonwealth Edison spokesman John Schoen said 99,000 customers were without power as of 4 p.m. local time and 36,000 customers already had their service restored.
The parade officially was stopped at 2:25 p.m., according to Melissa Stratton, the director of the city's Office of Emergency Communications.
"The folks who are evacuating at the moment, we encourage them to continue and to keep seeking shelter from the weather," she said.
Stratton explained that the parade stopped and the east and west streets in the immediate vicinity had been reopened, "to allow attendees and those in footprint of the parade to seek shelter or proceed toward pubic transportation."
She confirmed that at the time the parade was canceled, some floats hadn't yet embarked on the route.
"Some floats had been held as officials made the decision," she said.
The National Weather Service about 1 p.m. upgraded an earlier watch to a severe weather warning through 2:15 p.m. and said the storms could bring lightning, hail, damaging winds, the threat of flooding and even a small chance of tornadoes. The worst of the weather was expected to hit the city by 2 p.m., but it actually came about 20 minutes later. The city's Office of Emergency Management at 1:02 p.m. said it was time to seek shelter.
That's because a thunderstorm watch means a thunderstorm might affect your area, and it's time to be alert and to monitor the weather. A thunderstorm warning means the storm is expected and it's time to take action by getting indoors to a safe place.
At 2:15 p.m. paradegoers reported an extreme temperature drop and darkened skies over the route's end at Diversey Parkway. The city's Office of Emergency Management said in a tweet that officials were holding back any floats that had not yet begun along the parade route. According to the website CWBChicago, an official radioed dispatchers to inquire whether the barricades could be brought down to accommodate those wishing to escape the weather. The rain started to fall about 2:21 p.m. at Aldine Avenue and Clark Street.
Earlier, about 15 minutes before the parade's noon kickoff, the weather service issued a severe thunderstorm watch for much of northern Illinois, including Cook County. At the time of the alert, which is in effect until 6 p.m., much of the parade route still was awash in sunlight under clear skies, though light sprinkles were felt along the parade route about 12:30 p.m.
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