Hail pummels Chicago area

July 1, 2011 (CHICAGO)

Hail shattered windows in the Garfield Park Conservatory, forcing the closing of the huge greenhouse.

"We heard a piece of glass fall. Glass is still falling, so we are dealing with that. Then we will get in and assess, then we will formulate a plan to get it fixed," said Mary Eysenbach, Director of Conservatories.

On Friday afternoon, the tiniest breeze caused more glass to shower down on the treasures of the fern room, the centerpiece of designer Jens Jensen's masterpiece that has 3 1/2 acres of plants under glass.

The mammoth cleanup job at the 103-year-old conservatory is hard to comprehend, and tears flowed at the hazard presented by embedded glass in the plant beds for years to come.

Eunita Rushing, head of the Garfield Park Alliance, created in the mid 1990s after storms damaged the institution, wants people to help the public space to recover.

"The interesting thing is the houses that have been renovated, they did not sustain any damage, so that to me signals that we have get this work completed and complete the vision that we had originally in 1994 when we began to restore the conservatory," said an emotional Rushing.

Workers were beginning to clean up, but it will be a long time before all the glass is removed. One official estimated that the cost could be as much as $5 million. The conservatory will make a public appeal for funds. For more information, visit www.garfield-conservatory.org.

Hail breaks car windows, dents metal

Auto body shops throughout the area are inundated with cars damaged by the hail. Car windows are busted or cracked and metal is pock-marked.

"Every five minutes, a new car rolls in, either on a tow truck or people driving in. It's been overwhelming, but we can handle it though," said Jay Gottfred, Erie-LaSalle body shop manager.

"You want to go through yourself on the hood of the car and protect the car. I love the car and it just kind of got to me," said Pat McGuinness, car owner.

Workers are assessing the damage and plan to work through the holiday weekend.

"I have never seen hail like this in the 40 years I've been in this business. It's the worst hail damage I've seen," said Marco Melone, Erie-LaSalle body shop.

"I am devastated. I love this car. And when I saw what happened to it, I couldn't believe it. I never saw hail that big in my life," said Ania Banas, car owner.

Storm rips through West Side

Tom Alter of Little Village captured the winds, rain and damaging hail on his camera.

"I was hoping the lens wouldn't break because it was like ping pong balls zipping all over the place," Alter told ABC7.

The hail shredded tree leaves, cutting them off in clumps in Alter's front and back yard.

"I had never seen hail that big - close between marble and ping pong size hail - and they were bouncing everywhere, ricocheting off of things," he said.

Now, leaves litter the neighborhood and neighbors remember the sound of the hail coming down.

"It sounded like a jet engine that was coming nearby. Then you started the twinkling of a couple pieces of hail and then suddenly it was this barrage," said Christian Priebe, Little Village resident

A block away, Linda Alva captured pictures of the storm with her boyfriend, Giovanny Donis.

"You just hear hail hitting everything, crackign glass, headlights, just everything, a path of destruction," said Donis.

Golf-ball size hail busts city windows

Dozens of Chicago police cars on the city's West Side also sustained damage, such as dents and broken glass. The hail took out windshields and hoods of some 64 police cars in the 11th District, rendereing 49 inoperable. But police service was not impacted. Cars from other districts were used when necessary.

"This does impact normal day-to-day operations, especially in a district like this. This is one of the busiest districts in the city, if not the busiest. But is this something that we are not prepared for? No," said Lt. John Andrews, Chicago Police Department.

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