CHICAGO — At least seven tornadoes touched down across Chicago area as a strong “derecho” storm system crossed the region Monday night, including one that passed through Chicago’s city limits, according to the National Weather Service.
A long-lived thunderstorm complex, which originated along the Nebraska/South Dakota border, produced widespread severe wind damage across northern Illinois and Indiana Monday afternoon. Straight line winds of 60-80 mph were common.
Investigations by the NWS on Tuesday confirmed both an EF-0 and a EF-1 tornado touched down outside Rockford Monday night, as well as EF-1 tornadoes in Spring Grove, Marengo, Wheaton, Lombard and Rogers Park.
According to the NWS, several tornadic circulations developed within the main line of thunderstorms in the “derecho” system, producing conditions that led to high winds and caused damage across parts of Chicago’s far North Side, the western suburbs and far northeast Illinois.
In the greater Chicago area, there were numerous reports of downed trees and power outages, and 3/4 inch to 1 inch diameter hail. Winds in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood reached 85 mph, while wind speeds of 91 mph were reported in Cedar Point, and 72 mph near Midway Airport.
A supercell that was absorbed into the system also produced tornado damage in and around the Rockford area. The NWS said it’s possible they’ll confirm additional tornadoes in the coming days.
A tornado that touched down in Lincolnwood moved northeast through Chicago and Rogers Park with estimated peak winds of 110 mph and a maximum width of 300 yards.
Rogers Park resident Mary Hopkins said she had just got home from volunteering with the census when the tornado hit.
“I was heading toward the basement and got to the center of the house, and then this tree came down and the whole house shook; knocked the plaster off the wall, the crown molding upstairs, I was cowering in the doorway but it was over in a flash,” Hopkins said.
Storms left 500,000 people without power across the area, and ComEd says it will take several days to get everyone back online.
Chicago’s 311 call center reported 8,859 service requests for downed trees, traffic signal outages and storm-related damage, while 911 received 559 calls regarding downed wires as well.
Branches took down power lines in her backyard, and she said she’s waiting on ComEd to come before the trees can safely be removed.
The Rogers Park tornado was only one of seven that emerged from the strong derecho storm, which caused damage from Iowa to northern Indiana.
At the end of its 3-mile path, the Rogers Park tornado moved through Pottawattomie Park, roughly along west Fargo Avenue, before crossing on to Lake Michigan and becoming a waterspout. There were no confirmed injuries or fatalities.
This is only the 15th tornado to impact the Chicago city limits since weather records began in 1855. The most recent was a very brief landspout in 2016, and another in 2006 near the Loyola campus.
“The mulberry, these are 100-year-old trees,” Hopkins said. “I go out in the front and both my lindens are gone.”
Mirella Moreno was in her backyard gardening minutes before the tornado touched down on her street.
“The trees were cut like a toothpick,” Moreno said. “We feel so lucky, I could be killed because that branch came exactly where I was washing my feet.”
A large portion of her neighbors’ 70-foot tree hit her roof before falling across her backyard, shattering windows as a chunk of it impaled the back of her house.
“It completely destroyed our whole garden, both fences on both sides,” Moreno said. “Our grill, deck patio door.”
Crews with Progressive Tree Service have a lot of work to do, as more than a dozen large trees are down on this block alone.
“The more I look, the more damage I see outside on the whole block but in our house too,” Moreno said. “It’s going to take a little while to repair everything and clean it up.”
The good news is that there are no reports of injuries, which is unbelievable considering how many huge trees came down on top of homes and cars.
ComEd says it has 800 crews working around the clock, and another 1,400 are headed to the region from the east coast. Still, some customers are being told it could be Saturday before power is restored.