BATAVIA, Ill. — Documentarian Greg Peerbolte, in conjunction with colleagues and folks at the Joliet Historical Museum put together a spell-binding look back at meteorological events that day, which produced the Chicago area’s only F-5 tornado.
The deadly twister–which killed 29 and injured hundreds more—struck without warning and was rain-wrapped in rain and therefore all but invisible to those who watched as it roared into unsuspecting Plainfield and Crest Hill in Chicago’s southwest suburbs. It occurred at a time of the year when t-storms in this area tend to produce flooding rains and hail–not mammoth EF-5 tornadoes.
The accounts of those who survived and covered the mammoth storm are gripping. The tornado was described to Skilling in a phone conversation less than 24 hours after it struck as “the worst August tornado to hit the United States; possibly the most damaging tornado I’ve investigated in all my years” by world-renowned tornado researcher Dr. Ted Fujita of the University of Chicago. It shook the meteorological community here to the core and has led to a revolution in the way severe storms are handled. No tornado in the Chicago area has struck since without warning and an overhaul of the area’s critically important spotter network and the installation of the most powerful Doppler radar system makes it far less likely a tornado of that strength will ever again roar into a Chicago area community undetected.