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High winds keep downtown streets closed

Evanston emergency personnel kept parts of downtown closed to vehicle traffic and pedestrians late into the night Monday.

Church Street at Orrington Avenue is one of several downtown streets police closed off. (Bill Smith photo)

Construction debris from the Sherman Plaza development created dangerous conditions with falling and flying materials.

Police Chief Frank Kaminski said one construction worker was cut by flying debris about 8:30 Monday morning. He’s been treated for cuts and released. Cars were also been hit by falling rubble, but no other injuries have been reported.

City Emergency Management Director Max Rubin said wind gusts of up to 60 miles per hour were reported at the construction site in the morning and that some construction forms toward the top of the structure that had been left unsecured over the weekend started blowing around.

Mr. Rubin said the wind was so powerful that it bent steel rebar used to reinforce concrete at the construction site.

Chief Kaminski said buses that normally stop on Benson Avenue directly behind the construction site have been rerouted to stop in front of the Century Theater complex on Maple Avenue instead.

The CTA Purple Line is continuing to run but is not stopping at the Davis Street station. Riders have to use the stations at Dempster Street or Foster Street instead, and CTA buses are making connections at those stations.

Chief Kaminski says the police distributed flyers about the problem to stores in the affected area, and many store managers decided to close for the day.

The streets blocked off included Church from Maple to Orrington, Davis from Sherman to Maple, Benson from Clark to Davis and Sherman from Clark to Davis.

Plastic sheeting was ripped from its framework on some openings of the Sherman Plaza high rise.

“One of the problems,” said Fire Chief Alan Berkowsky, “is that the winds are so dangerous and high that construction workers cannot even get to the top of the project to secure the materials.”

He continued, “And the materials that already have been secured are not holding.”

“We realize this is an inconvenience to businesses and residents of our downtown,” Chief Kaminski said, “Our first concern is keeping everyone safe.”

“We ask everyone to take precautions during these high winds and to please cooperate until the situation is under control,” he said, adding that officials are continuing to monitor weather conditions and forecasts to determine when they may be able to remove the barricades.

Sherman Avenue from Clark to Davis was nearly deserted as officials blocked traffic to try to avoid any more injuries should more debris blow off the Sherman Plaza construction site.

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