Severe storms sweep across Illinois

August 20, 2009 2:45:29 PM PDT
Severe storms across Illinois caused damage on Wednesday evening. There is damage downstate and in the Chicago area.

The high winds flattened some businesses and homes and heavy rains flooded streets.

Some of the worst damage on Wednesday night was in Northwest Indiana.

It appears the town of Chesterton was hit the hardest. Police said the power went out, roofs were damaged and trees were down everywhere.

The entire town of 10,000 appeared to be without power on Wednesday night. They believe 70-mile-an-hour winds hit the area and tore the roof off the Chesterton Middle School. About a quarter of the roof was thrown. The storm brushed homes and snapped many trees.

Remarkably, there were no serious injuries reported.

There was one automobile accident, however. A car overturned on Route 49 because the power was out. The driver was taken to the hospital but he appears to be the only person at this point to have any injuries.

A short distance from Chesterton, there was an apartment complex that lost its roof due to storm.

"I watched the roof go across the street into the other house. It was pretty wild," said a resident of the building. "I don't think there was any injuries that I'm aware of."

There was a tremendous amount of rain that preceded the storm, and some people in Chesterton believe it to have been a tornado. The weather service has yet to make a determination on that.

Tornados, storms terrorize Midwest

In downstate Illinois, a twister destroyed dozens of buildings and left families homeless. Violent winds whipped across nearly a half a dozen states on Tuesday.

Clean-up is underway in Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, Indiana and Illinois.

And on Thursday the National Weather Service confirmed at least four tornados struck Illinois; one in Elburn, Lily Lake, downstate Williamsville, near Springfield, and another in Loami. The tornados left residents little time to react.

"We lost about 20 trees, some of them sheared off at the ground. One of them was 18-20 inches in diameter, got picked up, swirled around and thrown on top of all four of our vehicles," said Delores Hudkins, homeowner.

Apart from the damage, the storm cut a visible swath through local fields.

In Williamsville, about 10 miles north of Springfield, there is a mountain of cleaning up to do. The Williamsville Christian Church is gutted.

One person was hurt when a wall collapsed. And up and down the streets homes are ripped apart.

An outside wall was torn from a house where there's at least the opportunity to save what is still inside. Volunteers, firefighters and police are pitching in to help. But a number of homes there are simply too far gone.

"We got about 16 homes totally destroyed. Others we're trying to make livable. Some will have to be demolished," said Sheriff Neil Williamson, Sangamon County.

The storms that hit downstate and elsewhere in the Midwest were ferocious. Ryan Degner, 13, was home alone in his basement when the twister hit.

"I heard like a boom, then glass breaking and stuff. One of the windows in the basement had broken. About 5 minutes after that, I went upstairs and looked and the whole side of the house was missing," said Degner.

The winds were so strong that two motorcyclists were blown off their bikes near I-55. They're hurt, but should be okay.

There are visible pockmarks left on a house in Williamsville from churning debris.

Southwest of Springfield in Loami Chandra Ushman and her children are lucky to be alive. They ran barefoot through broken glass as their home was ripped from its foundation.

"The pressure was unreal and my ears started popping and the house started creaking. I turned around and I threw myself on top of my kids. I had them like this, and I just started praying and the dog had his nose pressed against me the whole time," said Ushman.

They were shaken but unhurt.

Now comes the long term recovery of trying to piece back together the neighborhoods that people called home.

Tornado touches down in Elburn

The National Weather Service confirms that a tornado touched down last night in far west suburban Elburn.

The peak wind had an estimated speed of 105 miles an hour. It ripped a roof right off a barn and damaged homes nearby. But there were no injuries.

The village itself was spared with all the damage occurring north of town.

Many trees were destroyed and one of them managed to mash all of a homeowner's vehicles.


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