Chicago Weather: NWS confirms 9 tornadoes, including EF-3 near Coal City

ByABC7 Team Coverage WLS logo
Wednesday, June 24, 2015
Supercell spawns at least 4 tornadoes, NWS says
The National Weather Service said at least one EF-3 tornado, one EF-2 tornado and two EF-1 tornadoes touched down in north central Illinois.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A supercell thunderstorm spawned nine tornadoes in north central Illinois, including at least one EF-3 tornado, one EF-2 tornado and two EF-1 tornadoes, the National Weather Service said Tuesday.

NWS crews will continue to assess additional possible tornado damage in several areas over the next two to three days, and the number of confirmed tornadoes will likely increase.

At least five tornadoes were reported in Will, Kankakee, Lee, Grundy and LaSalle counties from late Monday evening to early Tuesday morning.

PHOTOS: Tornado, storm damage reported across Chicago area

The NWS confirmed an EF-3 tornado carved a three-quarter-mile wide path just east of Interstate 55 between Grundy and Will counties. The path of the tornado stretched at least 16.5 miles from 4 miles southwest of Morris, through Coal City, to 6.9 miles southeast of Braidwood. An EF-3 tornado has winds of 136 to 165 MPH.

The NWS said a "high-end" EF-2 tornado, with maximum estimated wind speeds up to 130 MPH, carved a half-mile path in Lee County from Woodhaven Lakes to south of Sublette, Ill. An EF-2 tornado has winds of 111 to 135 MPH.

EF-1 tornadoes were confirmed in LaSalle County near Mendota, Ill., and in Lee County near Harmon, Ill. An EF-1 tornado has winds of 86 to 110 mph.

NWS survey teams are still investigating other possible tornadoes in LaSalle, Grundy and Kankakee counties.

VIDEO: Tracking the path of the tornadoes


The first tornado was reported at 8 p.m. Monday; the last around midnight Tuesday. The towns of Coal City, Sublette and Mendota were among the hardest hit. NWS damage survey teams were dispatched to those cities, as well as Harmon, Ottawa, Morris, Braidwood and Momence, to determine the number, intensity and path of the tornadoes.

ComEd said it has restored power to more than 90 percent of customers. At the height of the storm, more than 55,000 customers were in the dark. Most of the outages were in Dixon, Sterling, Coal City and Joliet.

VIDEO: Coal City officials and Governor Rauner address tornado damage

Governor Bruce Rauner declared Grundy and Lee counties disaster areas on Tuesday and made state resources available to help tornado victims. He activated the State Emergency Operations Center Monday night to make crews and equipment available to help local emergency responders.

"We're going to make sure every resource we can is available to help Coal City recover, and Sublette, over in Lee County," Gov. Rauner.

MORE: How to help Illinois tornado victims


A curfew is in effect in Coal City from 8 p.m. Tuesday to 6 a.m. Wednesday, Coal City Police said. All residents in affected areas must have proper photo identification proving they live there, and any friends of family members trying to enter affected areas must be escorted by a resident through every checkpoint.

Around 10 p.m. Monday, Coal City was struck by a tornado, the second in just under two years. The city of around 5,000 is located about 60 miles southwest of Chicago.

Wilmington Fire Protection District Deputy Chief Todd Friddle said five people were taken to the hospital with minor injuries overnight. There have been no reports of fatalities.

VIDEO: Coal City residents assess tornado damage

Many survivors were pulled from their basements, Friddle said, once rescue teams were able to get to them. More than 35 agencies responded.

Search-and-rescue operations ended Tuesday. Officials said they have now turned their attention to collecting damage estimates and working with federal agencies to determine the path of the tornado.

Residents said they heard tornado sirens go off and took cover. Later, they heard a deafening roar as the twister moved overhead.

"I looked out the back door and stuff started blasting the house. So, I ran for the bathroom. I came out ten minutes later and... smashed," Matthew Richardson said.

"All the trees are down, all the power lines are gone. My neighbor's roof is gone. My cars are buried. Power lines are on my car. My wife's car is surrounded by 100-year-old oak trees. I lost probably five trees. My roof is leaking in three different places," Glenn Root said.

Fire Station No. 2 was struck by lightning during the storm, which caused a communications tower to fall on the building. But emergency crews were able to respond out of the station soon after the damage occurred.

"It's eerily close to the damage we saw about a year and a half ago," Friddle added.

Many of the roads leading into Coal City were blocked Tuesday because it is too dangerous to go in. Workers are walking through the rubble to assess damage. They said some buildings were wiped out entirely and there are natural gas leaks in many homes. Overhead wires are hanging low enough to connect with larger vehicles.

The storm also brought rain to the area - as much as 4.25 inches fell in Coal City. Flooding is now a concern in the 700-block of West Daisy Place.

"Mainly with our rakes and manpower, just to clear all the debris. You know, shingles, woods, rags. All sorts of junk," Gezim Bakir, Coal City maintenance worker, said.

"Glass everywhere. The doors were blown open, the windows were blown out. My brother-in-law said, 'I think everything's OK.' Then he turned and saw our front yard. He said, 'My van's in the middle of your front yard!'" Kim Doglio said. She said her family realizes it could have been much worst.

"I'm very thankful that my kids weren't in bed. My daughter's room, had she been in bed, she would probably not be here. There's just glass shattered all over the bed. Big shards of glass," she said.

Friddle said many Coal City emergency workers' homes were damaged by the tornado, including that of the fire chief.

"We start from the bottom and go up. Work with the trees and debris. Get this city cleaned up," Bakir said.


Assistant Fire Chief Kevin Schultz said damage to Woodhaven Lakes, a private, 1800-acre campground in Sublette, Ill., was worse than he anticipated.

"At this point in time, the best word to describe it is 'decimated.' There are trailers in trees. There are trailers upside down. We have liquefied petroleum gas that is in the trees. It is the worst thing I have ever seen," Schultz said.

VIDEO: Storms wipe out Woodhaven Lake campground in Sublette

An 80-member search and rescue team is searching for people who may have been trapped.

"We are very fortunate that the storm hit on a Monday when the campground was not busy. On a weekend, it can hold as many as 30,000 people," Gov. Rauner said. "We do not have an accurate count on the campground. One of our biggest concerns is because many of those folks are traveling, they're from remote areas, out of town that could be trapped and not be reported."

Five people were injured during the storm, Schultz said.

"We did transport one person to the hospital and we have four walking wounded that were treated by the paramedics or EMTs at the scene and refused care," Schultz said.

Richard Bolin was camping at Woodhaven when the tornado struck.

"Total devastation. All my neighbors have trees down on all their campers. I got lucky. I have my boat and my camper here. Missed all of my stuff by inches. I drove down here from the Fairdale, Kirkland area because we just had a major tornado there. I wanted to see what it was like. It was exactly like that," Bolin said.

Woodhaven is closed to the public while officials search. Sublette, located in Lee County, is 100 miles west of Chicago.