3 tornadoes hit Chicago area

August 5, 2008 4:49:54 PM PDT
Three tornadoes touched down in the Chicago area on Monday night, including one that caused a lot of damage in Griffith, Indiana. Downed power lines sparked a garage fire on the city's Northwest Side. At the height of the storm, nearly half a million customers were without power Strong winds also damaged buildings and flooded streets across the northern part of the state late Monday, and lightning is being blamed for several fires. Another line of thunderstorms left tens of thousands without power early Tuesday.

More than 100,000 were still without electricity Tuesday afternoon. ComEd officials are warning it could take days to restore the power.

Trees fell victim on the Northwest Side, creating damage and causing at least one injury. The man hurt is in fair condition.

The day revealed the wrath of Monday night's storm.

"It was terrible, scary. The lightning, I thought it would hit something," Jose Maldonado, resident.

In the 2100-block of North Whipple, a man was struck by a falling tree branch. It caused obstacles and damage throughout the city.

"Our crews go out and immediately cut up the debris, sometimes we leave this to get to the next job, there's so many jobs coming in quickly," said Commissioner Mike Picardi, Chicago Streets and Sanitation.

A tree crushed an SUV on North Winchester, as well as a gate across the street.

"And round one was enough, and round two, here we go again. It was pretty crazy to have that second round come through and thinking what next?" said Paul Kacymarcz, resident.

Some residents' vehicles on West Cortez were trapped as the tree fell across garages.

"It is amazing. I'm amazed how bad the storm was. I was driving through the city and there was trees down all over the place," Rosanne Wygodny, resident.

Trees brought down power lines at the height of the outages. ComEd says there were 500,000 customers without power.

"A lot of trees come down, overlie lines and that takes a while to clear. You have to send management crews out to clear trees, before you put customers back up," said Anne Pramaggiori, ComEd Executive V.P.

ComEd says they restored power to hundreds of thousands of people. There are 150,000 that remain without power, and throughout the city, there are many trees yet to be cleared.

Monday's storm prompted tornado warnings in downtown Chicago. Fans were evacuated from the stands at Chicago's Wrigley Field.

In St. Charles, winds damaged the roof of St. Charles North High School, which led to water damage. A youth baseball group was in the building when the storm struck. Members of the group were safely evacuated by the local fire department, according to School District 303 Superintendent Don Schlomann.

Frank Kowalski has lived in unincorporated St. Charles for 15 years and said he never experienced such a storm. He said his family did not have time to seek shelter.

"It was over in about 30 seconds, a wind blowing outside and I heard branches bouncing off the roof, then it was over and just raining hard," Kowalski said.

Several of his 300-year-old oak and hickory trees were damaged in the storm. He said clean-up crews can't remove the trees because, they told him, they must take care of trees that have damaged homes. He said he believes it'll cost him, out of pocket, about $10,000.

"The insurance company disavows it because it didn't hit the house," Kowalski said.

The Neuneker family lives near Lily Lake in unincorporated St. Charles. A 50-foot oak tree fell in their pool. Their daughter was at home when the storm struck.

"We were on the way home and called the kids to make sure they were OK. They said they smelled smoke. So our main concern was, was the house on fire and were they safe?" said Devin Neuneker.

One twister struck Bolingbrook. In the 200-block of Silverado Street, several homes were hit by the tornado. On Tuesday, homeowners assessed the damage.

"The roof lifted up and came down, the covered patio is smashed and then the garage caved in," said Lisa, Bolingbrook resident.

"I looked outside and there was big chunks of everything blowing through the back yard. I got up and told everybody to get in the basement. We ended up in the basement for about 15 minutes," said Ken Shields.

There were three homes on the block that were severely damaged. Those residents said they're going to have to move out for several months.

Authorities reported lightning and downed power lines may have sparked fires in Chicago, Hillside and unincorporated Downers Grove. Strong winds ripped the roofs from a Hillside commercial building and at least a half-dozen homes in the Hickory Oaks subdivision in Bolingbrook.

The Jefferson Park and Norwood Park neighborhoods were especially hard hit by Monday night's violent thunderstorms.

A woman unwittingly drove into one fallen tree at the intersection of Foster and Austin.

"She was not able to see exactly the signals. It was too dark here and the light on the top, it was just flashing. It just flashed on her face. So she was not able to see the tree," said the woman's husband, Gunal Dailor.

During the height of the storm Monday night, sirens went off all over Chicago, sending residents into their basements and leaving many unaware of what was going on just outside their doorsteps.

"We were in the basement...most of the night. I think it was about midnight, we actually came out and saw that these branches and more branches were coming down. Our lights flickered like we had a brownout for a few minutes, but it came right back on. Then this morning, we don't have any phone service either," said Connie Contreras, resident.

According to Northwest Side residents, there was also flooding on the streets Monday night, but there have been no reports of flooded basements.

Passengers at O'Hare International Airport were evacuated into the lower levels of the complex's buildings. All flights were temporarily halted, and travelers who had already boarded airplanes were taken off as the storm struck, then led to the lower levels as a precaution.

"It was pretty cramped down there, the whole terminal was down there," said George Wickens, 50, of London, who was trying to travel to Florida with his family.

The storms did not cause any damage or injuries at O'Hare or Midway Airport, said Department of Aviation spokesman Gregg Cunningham.

The fast-moving storms caught many Chicagoans by surprise.

Kristin Febor, 21, of Chicago watched the rain approach from the roof of the Marina Towers high-rise downtown along with friends.

"The wind picked up and in probably five seconds it blew (my friend) into her husband," she said. "He grabbed her and pulled her inside and we all ran down the stairs. It was like dead still and then within five seconds, ten seconds we were all blown away."

Warning sirens sent pedestrians scrambling into high-rises and train stations for shelter.

Security guards at the Ogilvie Train Station, just off the Chicago River, ushered people streaming inside away from large glass windows and into the middle of the building.

"The lightning between the buildings was looking ominous," said Michaela Nelson, 58-year-old singer from Barrington, brushing her dripping-wet hair at the station. "And then it just poured."


Load Comments