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Light Poles Fall In Streeterville, Edgebrook Amid Strong Winds

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Fierce winds were blamed Thursday for taking down light poles in two different parts of the city.

As CBS 2's Jeremy Ross reported Thursday night, falling light poles are an ongoing problem we have tracked for years.

A light pole came down Thursday afternoon outside the Starbucks at Ontario Street and McClurg Court in Streeterville – a site that hits close to home for longtime CBS 2 staffers as the old CBS Chicago building was formerly located kitty-corner from it on the current Shirley Ryan AbilityLab site.

The potential lethal combination of rust, decay, and wind is blamed for the pole snapping off its base and plunging to the pavement. An attached traffic signal also came down.

Utility poles can stretch 10 to 20 feet high. When they fail, only bases are left behind – an orange caution cone covered the base of the pole that fell in Streeterville Thursday.

Underneath were signs of years of rust and decay.

A light pole also came down Thursday at Devon and Caldwell avenues, where the Edgebrook and Wildwood neighborhoods meet on the city's Far Northwest Side.

The partially-snapped pole was left dangling over the roadway and caused traffic to be diverted near the Caldwell Woods Forest Preserve.

Neighbor Mike Wallenberg said the wind was "very, very bad" on Thursday, as all Chicagoans likely noticed. But the calming sound of nearby windchimes was momentarily muted by the thumping of Wallenberg's heart.

"I was nervous seeing it swaying like it was," Wallenberg said. "It looked like the wind was about to knock it over.

"It was very, very dangerous," added neighbor Ban Tran. "It was leaning out."

Years of salt, snow, and natural forces threatened to bring down the pole at Devon and Caldwell. Rust, decay, and a caution cone stuffed upside down in the base were all that were left once crews removed the pole.

In the 20 years Tran has lived nearby, the pole had never shown inability when it came to stability.

"No sign at all - it's right in front of my house," Tran said.

Wallenberg said he quickly called the city, and said crews arrived on the double.

So far this year, city crews have been busy with similar complaints. In 2021, there have been at least 970 reports of damage to the light poles – including at least 214 in the Loop.

"It's scary - you kind of think of it a random fluke," Wallenberg said. "But hearing that, if it fell in the street, anything could have happened."

This makes three city light poles that have toppled over this week alone. Another one fell down on Monday at Adams Street and Wabash Avenue in the Loop.

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For years, the CBS 2 Investigators have tracked the utility pole corrosion and concern – case after case impacting neighborhood after neighborhood.

Some poles fell harmlessly to the ground. But a handful have injured people in the process.

In 2019, a light pole fell and injured a woman near LaSalle and Lake streets in the Loop.

And in February of 2020, a rusted city light pole fell onto the car of a 25-year-old in Streeterville, leaving her with a concussion and other injuries.

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The poles fall as the metal supports gave way to forces of nature, including the wind.

Fortunately, Wallenberg called before the one near him did any damage.

"I'll probably pay closer attention looking at poles seeing if they're rusted out," he said.

Fortunately, there were no reports of injuries in the pole problems on Thursday.

The city added that it is working very hard to identify and replace streetlight poles as needed.

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