Windstorm batters Chicago area, triggers tornadoes

October 26, 2010 (CHICAGO)

Earlier in the day, the powerful storm system triggered several tornadoes in the Chicago area.

There is some damage from those tornadoes. Touchdowns have been confirmed near Elburn and Porter County, Indiana. The most damage was in Peotone where a farm was hit.

Later in Chicago, a blaze broke out at the Statistics and Mathematics building at University of Chicago. There were no students inside the building because it is being renovated. Winds were gusting at 30 to 40 miles per hour as the fire tore across the top floor of the three-story building in Hyde Park. The high winds prompted the Chicago Fire Department to send extra manpower.

No students were hurt but blowing debris injured a firefighter who was in stable condition at University of Chicago Hospital Tuesday night.

The wind storm didn't just endanger fire fighters but drivers, too.

"I shut it down probably around 3:00 because the rain and the wind and everything, it was too much. I shut it down. I didn't want to risk it," said Josh Strangberg, truck driver.

All day, fierce winds pounded the city and suburbs. They flipped several small planes at the DuPage County airport and ripped apart a billboard on Interstate 55 and LaGrange Road. The storm left heavy tree damage in south suburban Harvey.

"We're actually looking at one of the most powerful storms that we've seen in a long time that's moved up into the upper Midwest…the central pressure of this storm is actually similar to that of what you'd see with a category 3 hurricane," said Gino Izzi, National Weather Service meteorologist.

On Tuesday morning, the storm spawned an EF2 tornado near Peotone which decimated Justin Schroeder's house and left him and his brother with minor injuries.

"All of a sudden the wind kicked up. I was trying to hold the glass door shut. Blew him through the glass door, slid us back into the foyer," said Schroeder.

On Chicago's South Side, firefighter Merriel Shadlow stepped out of his jeep moments before it was crumpled by a fallen tree branch.

"It is directly over the driver's seat. If I had been in the vehicle, I would have been crushed," said Shadlow.

The storm affected as many as 200,000 ComEd customers though most had their lights back on Tuesday night.

ComEd granted ABC7 exclusive access to their war room and nerve center where personnel were working furiously to coordinate repair efforts.

"We've got every person available. This is an all-hands-on-deck event from the person in the office to the person in the field to the VPs and CEOS," said Joe Svachula, V.P. Field Ops., ComEd.

Twelve thousand ComEd customers were still out of power Tuesday night. Most of those outages were in the suburbs.

Lingering effects of the high winds were felt O'Hare where delays were averaging about 45 minutes. Five hundred flights were canceled on Tuesday.

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