High winds downed trees and power lines while hail pelted buildings, homes and cars as a fast-moving line of severe thunderstorms roared through the Chicago area Tuesday, bringing wind gusts in excess of 70 miles per hour, tennis ball-sized hail, and power outages that impacted thousands of area residents.
Two suburban communities were hit especially hard by the storms, including Minooka. Trained weather spotters reported a tornado touch down near the community, and gusty winds caused damage in numerous parts of the town, including at the local high school, where the wall of one of the press boxes at the athletic complex crumbled.
Noah Munson, a student at the school, says that the storm hit just as students were leaving on their bus.
“It was pretty loud, and all the hallways got crowded,” he said.
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Storms also damaged Shamrock Cartage in Minooka, overturning equipment and damaging buildings at the facility.
“We saw the fence in the back just ripped up from the ground, metal crates whipping right past like the ‘Wizard of Oz,’” Chris Williams said.
“A whole truck, a semi-trailer, everything was on its side,” Tom Coco added.
Minooka officials say they are in the process of assessing the damage. Several roads in the community remain closed due to downed power lines and trees, and multiple streets have been left impassable because of storm damage.
Minooka Community High School District 111 reported that some classes are being moved to alternate locations Wednesday "out of an abundance of caution" as administrators work to assess damage to the Central Campus building. Classes being moved include physical education, music and career and technical education.
In Channahon, gusty winds caused damage to numerous communities, knocking down power lines and destroying trees during the height of the storm. At least 20 different locations are impacted by downed power lines, and ComEd workers are conducting damage surveys and working hard to restore electricity to parts of the community.
Elsewhere in the community, a large tree smashed a garage in the community, and another fell into resident Caitlyn Thompson’s yard.
“You couldn’t see back here, and you couldn’t see up there either,” she said of the storm. “My husband said neighbors called and said they couldn’t see the house anymore, so he told me to stay in the basement. I couldn’t get out because of trees blocking the doors.”
Numerous other communities were also dealing with storm damage Tuesday. In Bull Valley, located in McHenry County, a wind gust of 68 miles per hour was recorded, snapping tree branches and downing power lines in the community.
In Will County, numerous utility poles were snapped in half by wind gusts in Peotone, according to the National Weather Service.
Large hail the size of tennis balls fell in several communities, with trained weather spotters also reporting golf ball-sized hail in several communities, especially in Lee County, according to officials. In Earlville, multiple reports of tennis ball-sized hail were made to the National Weather Service.
Some communities also saw heavy rainfall, with Libertyville reporting 1.32 inches of rain within a 45 minute span during the height of the storms.
Fortunately for area residents, things are going to quiet down a bit for the remainder of the work week, with cooler temperatures on tap for Wednesday.