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Festival reopens after damaging storm

The Fountain Square Arts Festival reopened on schedule for its second day this morning, despite disruption caused by high winds and rain late Saturday afternoon that left seven people injured.

The Fountain Square Arts Festival reopened on schedule for its second day this morning, despite disruption caused by high winds and rain late Saturday afternoon that left seven people injured.

Jonathan Perman, executive director of the event’s sponsor, the Evanston Chamber of Commerce, says the storm struck with little warning.

"In mid-afternoon, we began to hear reports of a significant storm developing in the western suburbs, about 40 miles to the west. Winds were clocked in St. Charles, Ill. at 60 mph. The storm was predicted to move northwest towards the Wisconsin border and as late as 3:30 p.m. it appeared as if the storm would remain well west of Evanston.

"At about 3:45 p.m., the storm suddenly began to move east towards Evanston. Festival staff quickly responded and alerted all artists and vendors. Volunteers helped secure as many tents, equipment, and artwork as possible.

"The storm arrived very fast from the west in what is termed as a microburst. Traveling east on Church Street, the storm hit the intersection of Sherman Avenue at about 4:00 p.m. Gusts were reported at 70 mph with sustained winds at 60 mph for about ten minutes. This was followed by heavy rains and then a round of hail. The entire weather episode lasted about one hour."

Perman says emergency crews arrived within minutes after the first call to 911 and seven people were treated for injuries including two broken arms, a sprained ankle, minor lacerations, and cuts.

He says artists, festival volunteers and merchants in downtown stores pitched in with city crews to clean up the damage, with the cleanup work continuing until 11 p.m. last night.

He says several artists sustained substantial damage to their inventory and displays and were unable to return for to the festival today.

The festival continues in downtown Evanston until 6 p.m. tonight.

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