Severe storm causes widespread tree, property damage
A storm that brought torrential rain and extremely high winds that blew through the area at around 7 p.m. on June 13 downed scores of trees in North Riverside, Riverside and Brookfield and left hundreds of homes without power ahead of a weather system expected to bring temperatures reaching 100 degrees in the coming days.
Crews worked on the night of the storm and the morning afterward to clear downed trees from roadways, sidewalks and driveways. Brookfield Zoo sustained extensive tree damage throughout the park, said Dr. Michael Adkesson, president and CEO of the Chicago Zoological Society.
No animals or people were injured by falling trees or limbs and no buildings were damaged, but the extent of the tree damage was enough that the zoo delayed opening until at least 1 p.m. on June 14, when Adkesson said he hoped to be able to open half of the zoological park to visitors.
“It’s pretty much across the park,” Adkesson said. “There are dozens of large trees down that snapped, and a lot of big limbs down. Crews are working to clear as much stuff as they can.”
The southern end of Riverside and the northern end of Brookfield sustained heavy tree damage, with mature oaks and other species crashing across streets, driveways and front lawns. In several instances, such as at the corner of Washington and McCormick and the first block of Lawton Road in Riverside, trees came down directly on houses.
Andy Daun’s home on Lawton Road just north of Riverside Road in Riverside was crushed by an enormous white oak tree that uprooted in his front yard. Daun was inside the house about 15 feet away from where the tree hit, but he was not injured.
“I just kind of freaked out a little bit and ran into the garage and between two door frames there, because there’s no basement,” Daun said. “I heard a ton of noise and some smaller leaves hit the side of the house and then heard this giant crash. You could feel the whole house shaking.”
Two red oak trees fell across the 100 block of Bloomingbank Road, completely blocking the street there. Another oak came crashing down in front of Jim Cowell’s home on Bloomingbank, narrowly missing the house.
“We’re pretty fortunate that nothing happened,” Cowell said.
Residents there reported that winds were completely still moments before extremely strong gusts whistled through the neighborhood.
“Watching the top of the trees, they went from mysteriously still and then, you know how a storm blows straight? The [tree tops] started doing a rotation. These things snapped,” said Tom Zidlicky.
WGN-TV meteorologist Mike Janssen tweeted just after 7 p.m. as the storm came through the area that “a severe thunderstorm capable of producing a tornado was located over North Riverside, or over Maywood, moving southeast.”
While the winds experienced locally were part of a storm that did produce tornadic winds, data Tuesday morning did not indicate a tornado came through Brookfield, North Riverside and Riverside, said Casey Sullivan, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service’s Chicago office in Romeoville.
“Right now we believe in that area that it was straight-line wind damage,” Sullivan said. “We’ll have a team that will be examining the damage, but based on the data the best tornadic signature was near Streamwood, but it was part of the same storm.”
The National Weather Service on Tuesday morning had just two official wind gust readings for the area on the evening of June 13. The strongest gusts at O’Hare registered at 84 mph, while at Midway, the strongest gust was 69 mph, Sullivan said.
North Riverside Public Works Director Vince Ranieri, who lives on the far west end of the village, said the wind sounded like a locomotive as it came through.
“I’ve been here 25 years and I can’t remember the last time we had something like this come through,” Ranieri said.
As of 8 a.m. on June 14, Ranieri said the “majority of town” was still without power and that on the east end of the village, the severe damage appeared to be concentrated between 23rd Street and Traube Street, particularly in the 2300 and 2400 blocks of Burr Oak Avenue and the 2500 block of Hainsworth Avenue, all of which still had fallen trees blocking the roadway that morning.
In Brookfield, according to Public Works Director Carl Muell, the storm damage appeared to be concentrated in a corridor between 26th Street and Washington Avenue, in particular the very north end of the village.
“It looks like devastation,” Muell said.
One tree in the 9000 block of Bartlett Avenue, Muell said, looked as if it was twisted off its trunk.
“In my 30 years, what I witnessed last night, I’ve never seen that,” Muell said.
Those attending the Brookfield Village Board meeting sought shelter in the village hall basement as the storm came through. Power went out within minutes and the meeting had to be recessed until a later date.
Outside a handful of trees were blown down in Kiwanis Park, including an oak tree that snapped about 15 feet from its base and landed on the concession stand next to Overholt Field.
More than 1,000 households throughout Brookfield remained without power as of mid-morning on June 14, while ComEd reported about 1,500 without power in North Riverside and close to 1,000 in Riverside.
Power had been restored at Brookfield Village Hall and the Linda Sokol Francis Brookfield Library as of Tuesday morning and both have been designated as cooling centers for those still without power seeking relief from the heat.
Muell put out a call for mutual aid to help Brookfield public works employees clear up all the damaged trees and limbs. Starting on June 15, additional crews from Montgomery and Wilmette were scheduled to assist.
As of Tuesday morning, Riverside Village Forester Michael Collins was still trying to get a full assessment of the damage, which he said appeared worse on the south end of the village. In addition to the tree that fell on the Lawton Road home, trees also crashed onto homes in the 200 and 300 blocks of East Quincy Street.
Riverside public works crews spent six hours on June 13 just trying to clear roads so emergency vehicles could get through.
“This is the worst I’ve seen,” said Collins, who has been Riverside’s forester for 17 years, of the damage to the tree canopy. “I’ve never seen a storm event with multiple trees on houses.”