CHICAGO (AP) — Thunderstorms and heavy winds pounded the upper Midwest Tuesday night, stranding Chicago commuter train riders for hours, forcing the cancelation of hundreds of flights, and temporarily delaying Vice President Joe Biden's return to Washington after a fundraiser.
Michael Gillis, spokesman for the commuter rail Metra, said one outbound commuter train was stuck for about five hours when a storm knocked down a power line onto the rail. After 2 a.m. CDT Wednesday, the train was headed back to downtown, and passengers were being asked to find alternative transportation or wait even longer for another train.
Two inbound trains also remained stranded before dawn Wednesday, though Gillis said one had no passengers aboard and the other had few, if any.
There were numerous other delays and cancelations on the rail line due to the severe weather.
"Since the wind stopped, we've been dealing with various track obstructions," Gillis said.
The Chicago Aviation Department reported more than 300 flights were canceled at O'Hare International Airport, with incoming and outgoing flights delayed by at least two hours. More than 30 flights were canceled at Midway International Airport.
Ashley Luthern of Youngstown, Ohio, who was trying to make a connection to Pittsburgh after a flight from Istanbul, was among the hundreds of passengers at O'Hare who were herded into lower-level baggage claim area the American Airlines terminal when the National Weather Service issued a tornado watch.
"At first they said get away from the windows, which is very hard to do in an airport," she said. "They then became forceful in telling us to go down to the baggage claim area."
Karen Ramsey of Williamsburg, Iowa, was trapped at O'Hare after flying in from Cancun, Mexico on United Airlines when her connection to Moline was canceled.
"It was beautiful down there. Come home to this," Ramsey said.
Biden was in Chicago attending a Democratic fundraiser and raising money for an epilepsy foundation. After a delay, he arrived at O'Hare and was preparing to return to Washington.
Heavy rainfall downed trees across the region and sent people attending an outdoor concert scurrying for cover.
Commonwealth Edison was reporting power outages to more than 270,000 customers at the peak of the storm. Spokesman Bennie Currie said most of the outages were in Chicago's northern suburbs, where downed power lines had cut electricity to 151,000 customers.
Storms also damaged two hangars at Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids, Mich. WZZM-TV reported the airport hangars were pulled off their foundations by the winds Tuesday night, exposing the aircrafts inside. Three people inside were hurt, and one was taken to a hospital for a head cut, the station reported.
No tornadoes were immediately reported, but the National Weather Service several warnings and watches, saying conditions were favorable for funnel cloud formation.
The Midwest storms came one day after the evacuation of the College World Series in Omaha, Neb. Sirens blared and fans were ushered to an underground shelter as heavy rain pelted the city.
The game between Florida and Vanderbilt was suspended until Tuesday, with the Gators winning 3-1.
two major airports.