Tens of thousands evacuated as high winds threaten music fest

Sun Aug 5, 2012 7:33am EDT
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By Karen Brooks

(Reuters) - 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 were working with emergency management officials to determine if the event could resume on Saturday. The three-day music festival is scheduled to end on Sunday evening.

"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."

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.

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.   Continued...