Hurricane Sandy amps up Chicago wind and waves, cancels trips - FOX 32 News Chicago

PHOTOS: NWS issues gale force wind, lakeshore flood warnings for Chicago

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

The massive storm formerly known as Hurricane Sandy slammed into the East Coast and was expected to join up with two other weather systems to create a huge and problematic storm affecting 50 million people.

The powerful storm extended as far as Chicago, where the National Weather Service already has issued high wind warnings and a lakeshore flood warning for Tuesday and Wednesday.

City officials said Lake Shore Drive, along Lake Michigan, is expected to remain open. But they urged motorists to proceed carefully. The Chicago Transit Authority said it will reroute buses if necessary. Downed tree limbs and power lines are likely and driving may be difficult, especially in high profile vehicles.

Sandy has been among the largest-sized hurricanes. Meteorologist Jeff Masters said that as a hybrid, Sandy's damage will be even wider. But it will be less intense.

Nationwide, thousands of flights have been canceled; many of them at O'Hare International Airport.

Many travelers probably kept an eye on news reports in anticipation of Sandy's effects, because foot traffic at O'Hare International Airport was very light at 7:00 a.m. Monday. The typically bustling American Airlines terminal was nowhere near packed. reported 7,200 flights canceled across the country. That number grew exponentially from Sunday evening. O'Hare and Midway Airport saw delays and hundreds of cancellations early Monday morning. 

As of 8:30 p.m. Monday, the Chicago Department of Aviation reported no substantial delays at O'Hare or Midway. More than 500 flights were canceled at O'Hare, and more than 100 flights at Midway.

Some travelers ended up camping out at O'Hare, or in hotels to wait out Sandy's effects. One woman traveling to St. Croix wasn't impacted, but had a word of advice for those in the storm's path.

"Always be more careful. Always err on the side of caution," she said. "Hurricanes can be devastating and you don't realize it. If they are coming in at a one-or two category, chances are they could be a three or a four. Be careful."

All flights into and out of New York have been canceled, and the same for Philadelphia. Some flights out of Pittsburgh, about 225 miles away, were still making it out Monday morning.

But the best practice to avoid frustration calls for a check with your airline – whether that's online or over the phone – to see the status of your travel plans. Some airlines are giving refunds for those who do not want to fly, and others will not charge for a change to a scheduled flight impacted by Sandy.

Locky Banner and his wife Stacy say they are very lucky, even though the couple's flight from JFK in New York City was cancelled. They did the next big thing: they drove 13 hours to Chicago.

"We just made it out before they stopped traffic coming out from the island--we just made it out and got a car," Stacy said.

Affected travel also includes trains to the East Coast. Amtrak canceled all trains across the eastern seaboard ahead of the storm. The company has cut off all service north of New York. South across Florida and the Carolinas there will still be some service, but there is no word on when trains in the hurricane zone will be running again.

The Chicago area mobilized to help the East Coast as it faced Hurricane Sandy.

ComEd sent more than 240 crews to the east coast on Saturday. That's more than 700 individual workers. The company said they sent the workers to Philadelphia and Baltimore.

A northwest Indiana ambulance service also sent help.

Prompt Ambulance in Highland deployed crews to New Jersey early Sunday. FEMA sent the ambulances to a military base there.

RELATED: Effects of Hurricane Sandy will reach Chicago area

The National Weather Service has issued a gale force wind warning, which means winds of 34 to 47 knots, and there could be gusts up to 60 miles an hour. Strong winds are going to affect Cook County, Lake and Porter counties in Indiana.

The National Weather Service has also issued a lakeshore flood warning effective from 1 a.m. Tuesday to 4 p.m. Wednesday. Waves on Lake Michigan could be 18 to 24 feet by Tuesday before subsiding - four times the height of typical Lake Michigan waves near Chicago.

Runners and others who may normally exercise on the shores of Lake Michigan may want to avoid doing so on Tuesday morning. Flooding could occur on Lake Shore Drive and on the lakefront bicycle and pedestrian path.

Adam Kroner, a marine mechanic was busy at Montrose Harbor trying to secure his customer's boat Monday evening. He said it's too dangerous to try to bring the boats into another location.

"Yeah, I'm not gonna be out here," Kroner told FOX Chicago. "Lots of boats will have damage."

Hurricane Sandy will affect Chicago weather all week. The storm is part of the reason why the cold temperatures have lingered. The cold front is blocked from moving on by the storm hovering above the East Coast.

Officials are asking residents with balconies to secure their items, especially lakefront high-rises. Residents are also encouraged to exercise caution and to steer clear of any of the city's beach areas. Waves are expected to reach 25 feet by Tuesday, with winds up to 50 MPH.

The city decided to cancel the downtown Halloween celebration because of "expected high winds," according to a statement. "All Halloween activities and tents will be removed for safety reasons," the statement said.

Residents and tourists should keep these warnings in mind, since this lake can turn deadly and even cause spills onto Lake Shore Drive.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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