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Gusty Winds, Downpours Slam Chicago, Great Lakes

UPDATED 7:15 AM CDT, October 20, 2011

By WeatherBug Meteorologist, Chad Merrill

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Rain is socking the Midwest with powerful winds likely to last today, making Chicago`s nickname true to its word. The gusts could be strong enough to make very hazardous travel and create power outages in large stretches of the Great Lakes.

A developing low pressure is scooting across the Ohio Valley this morning. The low will continue to wrap in heavy downpours along its northern side with northeasterly winds increasing.

The heaviest downpours will pelt Michigan into northern Indiana, where up to another inch of rain will fall through this evening. A Flood Watch continues across northern Ohio, where rivers and low lying places could experience flooding problems.

WeatherBug Meteorologist Aaron Schaeffer has the latest on today's weather threat in this exclusive WeatherBug Severe Outlook Video.

As the storm continues to wrap itself up, gusty winds will develop between the powerful low and a strong Canadian high edging into the Plains. Freeland, Mich., has already recorded 51 mph gusts, while a WeatherBug Live Tracking Station in Harbor Springs, Mich., has seen 41 mph gusts. These gusts will build to 50 mph, with a few gusts of 55 to 65 mph possible overnight into Thursday.

The howling winds will make their way onshore; sweeping through cities such as Milwaukee and Chicago with wind gusts of at least 40 mph. Even stronger winds are likely in the high-rises of Chicago. A few power outages could result as well as downed tree limbs across eastern Wisconsin and northeastern Illinois. Similarly, northeastern Lower Michigan will be perfectly aligned to see strong northeasterly winds.

High Wind Warnings continue into Thursday along the western shore of Lake Huron, and the western shore of Lake Michigan from Milwaukee to Gary, Ind., including Chicago and Milwaukee with Wind Advisories from central Michigan and southeastern Wisconsin to central Indiana.

Driving along Interstate 94 from Chicago to Milwaukee will be a white knuckle affair thanks to the wind, especially in a high profile vehicle such as an SUV. Be sure that any loose items, including trash cans or yard decorations, are weighted down or brought inside so they don`t become airborne or blown about your property.

Meanwhile, the perfect alignment of the winds along Lake Michigan will help the surf to build to epic proportions along the lake. Offshore waves could build as high as 22 feet across the lake, with the storm`s powerful winds driving these waves toward the southern end of the lake, where Chicago and Gary, Ind., rest. This could cause shore erosion, and significant flooding of the shoreline, including bike path along Chicago`s Lakeshore Drive.

Already, a buoy in the middle of Lake Michigan has reported 17-foot waves and wind gusts to 50 mph. A near-shore platform off Chicago located about 100 feet above Lake Michigan has reported sustained winds of 48 mph, with gusts as high as 55 mph.

The Windy City`s blustery weather pattern will be short-lived as the storm moves out by later today, and the pesky high pressure waiting in its wings will bring a pleasant weekend to the Midwest.

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