WOODRIDGE, Ill. — Monday marks one year since a three-block-wide tornado tore through DuPage County, injuring 11 people and damaging hundreds of homes.
The tornado, with 140 mph winds, traveled for nearly 16 miles and was on the ground for approximately 20 minutes. The twister touched down in Naperville, Darien and Woodridge.
A woman in Woodridge, who was seven months pregnant, lost her unborn child when a tree crashed through her home.
At least five people, including a woman who was listed in critical condition, were hospitalized in Naperville, where 16 homes were left “uninhabitable” and dozens of other homes were damaged.
The tornado was classified as an EF3, which can bring winds up to 165 mph.
“It’s not something that you think is going to happen to you,” said Derek Rockwell, who has lived on Everglade Avenue for 14 years. “I can’t believe it’s been a year because it’s really all we’ve talked about for a year but it’s also been a real slow grind.”
Recounting the events, Rockwell said he and his family took cover in the basement of their home about three minutes before the tornado hit. The twister’s path of destruction left uprooted trees and a home destroyed.
One year later, the Rockwells have successfully pieced up the pieces.
“We’ve had contractors here for literally 11 straight months,” he said.
“There’s noise, that’s what you want to hear, noise, that means things are getting done,” said tornado victim Dave Marshall.
While some locals put the finishing touches on their homes, others say they still have a long way to go.
“They were going house to house, one house would start and then another one would start and then it just came together,” Marshall said.
Many locals have paid for repairs out of pocket amidst battles with insurance companies. The village has also stepped in to help, planting new trees to line the streets.
“A lot of its brand new but none of it was easy, it cost everyone a lot of time and heartache and money,” Rockwell said.
Monday’s anniversary for the Rockwells was one of celebration. The family says the occasion marks how far the Woodridge community has come.
“Hopefully every other word out of our mouth won’t be tornado, contractor, or something like that,” Rockwell said.
On Monday, Woodridge issued a “Woodridge Strong Day” proclamation and a moment of silence to commemorate the anniversary.