Severe Thunderstorm Warning Forces Lollapalooza Evacuation [UPDATE]

By Chuck Sudo in News on Aug 4, 2012 8:45PM

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See all that red, yellow and green in the screen grab above? That's the severe thunderstorm warning that's in effect until 4:15 p.m. that's now reaching the Chicago area. Once the worst of this passes the area will be under a severe thunderstorm watch until 8 p.m.

So what does that mean for the over 100,000 people at Grant park attending Lollapalooza? A lot of confusion right now. Here's a photo Samantha Abernethy just sent us of people being asked to evacuate Grant Park and sections of Michigan Avenue have been shut down

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Samantha Abernethy/Chicagoist

Sam told us there the festival's night exit gates were opened and people were being asked to leave Grant Park, but little other information was forthcoming. Via the Lollapalooza app, festival attendees have been asked to head to the following underground parking locations:

25 N. Michigan
325 S. Michigan
Michigan Ave. between Jackson and East Adams.

Most of us knew the storm was coming, which is why both Tribune reporter Heather Gillers and WBEZ's Jim DeRogatis have asked what type of evacuation plan the city had in case of severe weather. Neither had any success obtaining details from the city and Gillers wrote:

Carol Cwiak, assistant professor of emergency management at North Dakota State University, said sometimes cities agree to emergency-weather plans that enlist promoters in decision-making because it makes the city a more attractive place to hold an event.

“It will limit private-sector partners from wanting to come into those jurisdictions and do events if they feel like their control is removed,” she said.

But she said cities should be careful when sharing that authority.

“The promoter has a monetary interest,” Cwiak said. “They probably want to take care of people as well. But that's not their primary interest.”

[Lollapalooza spokeswoman Shelby] Meade said: “[Lollapalooza promoter] C3 has no financial incentive to, nor interest in, proceeding with a festival that would endanger fans.”

Thankfully people are being evacuated at this time and, if the worst of the weather passes, Lollapalooza can continue. But it's the ambiguity of the evacuation plan that has some raised eyebrows around town right now.

Update: Samantha Abernethy is reporting that more people seem to be heading to nearby bars than the parking garages. Keep the party going, we guess.

Meanwhile, RedEye's Jessica Galliart tweeted this from Balbo

And Sun-Times pop music critic Thomas Conner is reporting fans around Perry's Stage aren't leaving.