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Lollapalooza evacuated as severe thunderstorms head for Chicago

August 04, 2012|By Laura J. Nelson
  • Lollapalooza concert fans are evacuated from Grant Park in Chicago as a storm approaches.
Lollapalooza concert fans are evacuated from Grant Park in Chicago as a… (Theo Wargo / Getty Images )

As storm clouds hovered over Chicago on Saturday, officials canceled outdoor music festival Lollapalooza until further notice and herded more than 100,000 people from Grant Park toward three underground shelters along Michigan Avenue.

“ATTENTION: Serious weather is about to hit Grant Park,” @Lollapalooza said in a Tweet . “ALL festival goers must evacuate IMMEDIATELY. Head to our 3 evacuation locations NOW.”

Minutes later, it began to pour.

Violent storms in the Illinois forecast were expected to bring hail, winds stronger than 70 mph and rains heavy enough to prompt flash flood warnings, the National Weather Service said. Temperatures remained in the mid-90s, with high humidity, ominous clouds and heavy rain in northern Illinois. Southwest of Chicago, the service reported wind gusts of up to 60 mph.

Similarly powerful winds caused the rigging on a stage to collapse at the Indiana State Fair last summer, killing seven people.

[UPDATED AT 4 p.m.: The gates to Grant Park have reopened, and shows will resume at 6:30 p.m. CDT. A revised performance schedule for Saturday night  is available here.]

Lollapalooza is one of the biggest outdoor music festivals in the country, held every summer in Grant Park. From Friday to Sunday, more than 160,000 people attend to hear dozens of artists performing alternative rock, heavy metal and hip-hop.

Saturday, some fans headed into three parking garages along Michigan Avenue. Hundreds of others huddled under storefront awnings, concert-goer Josh Fliegel said. A few ran into oncoming traffic and began to dance in the rain. Hundreds more joined them.

 “It’s still raining pretty hard,” Fliegel said in an interview with the Times, about an hour after the evacuation. “No one really knows what’s going on.”

People gathered at a gate at Congress Street and Michigan Avenue, waiting to get back into Grant Park. Some chanted “USA! USA!” and batted a volleyball above the crowd, Fliegel said. Others tried to hop the fence, in hopes of getting a better spot for the show if it resumed.

Should the show go on, the Red Hot Chili Peppers will take the main stage Saturday night. Also on the schedule: Avicii and Frank Ocean.


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