Calling it a "life-threatening situation," the National Weather Service announced Sunday night that a "confirmed large and extremely dangerous tornado" had touched down near Woodridge, causing damage to several communities.
At least eight people were hospitalized in Naperville, where 22 homes were left “uninhabitable" and more than 130 homes were damaged in the suburb of 147,500 people that’s about 25 miles (40 kilometers) west of Chicago.
Two people initially described in critical condition had improved by Monday afternoon, said Naperville Fire Chief Mark Puknaitis.
“We’re lucky that it wasn’t worse," city spokeswoman Linda LaCloche said Monday morning. “We have a lot of utility poles and electrical wires down, and tree damage."
Video showed several large trees downed and damage to homes and vehicles. Some gas leaks were reported in Naperville, and crews went door to door shutting off lines, LaCloche said.
Officials in the nearby village of Woodridge said a tornado damaged at least 100 structures. The village’s fire chief said three people were taken to hospitals, but he could not provide more detail on their injuries during a Monday press conference.
Woodridge Police Chief Brian Cunningham said early warnings people to take shelter and likely minimized the number of injuries.
“It was a nighttime event, a lot of people were sleeping, weren’t aware of what was going on,” he said. “The early warning got people to shelter. And the fact that there’s only three people injured and the amount of devastation that’s in the community, it’s just amazing." The storm destroyed the second floor of Bridget Casey’s Woodridge home. She sat in a lawn chair in the driveway before sunrise Monday. Her 16-year-old son, Nate, said he was watching TV when the storm swept through and he raced to help his mother get his three younger siblings to the basement.
“I just heard a loud crash and I’m thinking, ‘Oh, what are my brothers up to?’ I go look and I see the sky, and then I hear my brothers screaming from the room,” he told the Chicago Sun-Times.
Mayor Gina Cunningham called the damage to homes and other property in the village “extensive.”
“I’m just emotional because it is devastating to drive through the community that I grew up in and worked in and share with so many wonderful neighbors,” she said.
The tornado was confirmed by radar, and the National Weather Service was sending a team to survey damage and determine the tornado's strength and path. The agency said one tornado likely caused damage in Naperville, Woodridge and Darien.,
Matt Friedlein, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Romeoville, Illinois, said the same storm is believed to have rolled through Naperville, Woodridge and Darien, and may have also caused damage in Burr Ridge, about 20 miles southwest of Chicago,
“If there were no fatalities — and there haven't been any reported to us — that's great news considering the population of the area, the level of damage and the time of day, after 11 p.m. when many people may be asleep," Matt Friedlein, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Romeoville, Illinois, said.
Radar also showed storm rotation over several other areas of suburban Chicago, and in northwestern Indiana in the Hobart and South Haven areas, Friedlein said.
Severe storms also hit other parts of the Midwest. A tornado damaged several buildings and knocked down power lines and trees in eastern Iowa on Sunday night. Gusting winds and drenching rains moved through parts of Michigan late Sunday and early Monday. And in Missouri, a thunderstorm with strong winds whipped through parts of the state, knocking down trees and power lines.
Reports of damage also came in from other areas outside Illinois, including in South Haven, Indiana, where there was "fairly substantial damage," according to the National Weather Service in Chicago.