Wind gusts up to 60 mph expected Thursday

<p>Workers at a downtown parking garage removes <a id=snow melt water to the storm drain Wednesday in Chicago.  |  AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato

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Workers at a downtown parking garage removes snow melt water to the storm drain Wednesday in Chicago.  |  AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato

A high wind warning will go in to effect right before the flood watch expires in the Chicago area Thursday evening, boasting gusts of up to 60 mph.

The advisory will start at 5 p.m. Thursday — an hour before the 15-hour flood watch ends — for Cook, DeKalb, DuPage, and other surrounding counties, including towns in northwest Indiana, according to the National Weather Service. The warning expires 11 p.m. Thursday evening.

Wind speeds could climb up to 40 mph, while gusts are expected to hit 50 to 60 mph in the early to mid-evening hours, the weather service said.

Strong winds could damage trees and toss around unsecured objects, making travel dangerous, the weather service said.

Meanwhile, Thursday’s spring-like high of 53 degrees is expected to be paired with rainfall and flooding as piles of snow melt.

“The combination of rainfall and snow that’s on the ground right now that will be melting will lead to some pretty big runoff in the area because the ground is frozen and the water will have nowhere to go,” said meteorologist Kevin Birk.

Temperatures reached 44 degrees Wednesday in the hours before a “powerhouse storm system” overnight that could bring thunderstorms and up to 1 1/2 inches of rain, the weather service said.

Birk said the heaviest rainfall will occur Thursday morning, but the storm could last throughout the afternoon.

Flooding is possible in areas with poor drainage, low-lying areas, and areas near streams, creeks and rivers, according to the weather service.

The flood watch is in effect from 3 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday, the weather service said.

The Cook County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management is working with the department of Transportation and Highways, and Forest Preserves to prepare generators, sandbags and water pumps for anticipated flooding, a statement from the agency said.