Tornado damage severe in Chicago area

August 21, 2009 9:20:41 AM PDT
The damage from several tornadoes that struck the Chicago area Wednesday night is severe.

Chesterton, Indiana is one of the communities hit hardest. One hundred and twenty mile per hour winds ripped off roofs and uprooted trees. The cleanup there may take weeks if not longer.

Tornadoes also hit two communities in Kane County, Elburn and Lily Lake, and downstate Williamsville and Loami were struck.

There was serious damage in two different areas of Chesterton. The rest of the town was mostly untouched.

One of the worst hit areas was near the junior high school gymnasium. On Thursday night, a giant fan blew air inside the roof, as the roof of the gymnasium was blown off and suffered a tremendous amount of water damage.

Crews used a tarp to temporarily protect one home on Thursday night. It was one of more than a dozen homes they've worked on, and there's still plenty more to do.

"The damage around here is unbelievable. Both hardest hit areas, there's just branches everywhere," said Trina Quinn, resident.

The National Weather Service confirmed the storm was a tornado on Friday.

Ian Covert took pictures as the funnel cloud approached on Wednesday night. He and his friends knew immediately what it was.

"We see a tornado. Out of nowhere. So I start screaming for Bob to pull over and Bob's like, 'no, I'm not pulling over.' Pull over, Bob," said Austin Martinson.

"We were in the car, but when we got out and were running, you could feel the winds and it was picking up pretty fast," said Ian Covert.

All along one Chesterton street on Thursday night there were uprooted and downed trees, damaged roofs and debris everywhere.

Northern Indiana Public Service Company (NIPSCO) has restored electricity to most of the 13,000 residents of the town, but they were still out trying to get the rest of them on Thursday night.

Residents have been cleaning up all day but it will take much longer to get everything back to normal.

The tornado damaged structures only; nobody was hurt.

"All I saw was a green wall, two hundred feet wide, rotating in a circle, heading for that apartment and I just took off and ran. Started seeing trees, not trees but branches, large branches, and I mean, just seconds after that it was the roof blowing off of the house," said Cecil Tucker, resident.

"It just popped up all of a sudden, and for an event like that to not deal any injuries, we were extremely lucky," said Wineland.

There were still about 400 customers without power earlier on Thursday evening. NIPSCO officials hoped to get all households restored by about midnight.

All Chesterton schools were out on Thursday. However they're all expected to be back in session on Friday.

Tornadoes, 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.

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 Wednesday 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 smash all of a homeowner's vehicles.


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