CLAIRE SAVAGE and RICK CALLAHAN (Associated Press)
CHICAGO (TodayNews) — National Weather Service teams Thursday investigated hurricane damage in the Chicago area and northeast Illinois, where strong winds from tornadoes blew roofs off buildings, downed trees and forced residents to flee for safety as sirens sounded.
Four weather service teams traveled Thursday morning to inspect damage caused by the storm, which was reported Wednesday, in many areas of the Chicago metropolitan area and points further west to determine if tornadoes caused the damage, said Zachary Yak, a meteorologist at the Chicago meteorological office.
As of Thursday afternoon, the weather service confirmed at least seven low-level tornadoes, including one that touched down in the Cicero area, near O’Hare International Airport. The tornado caused passengers to rush to seek shelter at the airport and disrupt hundreds of flights, but no injuries were reported.
Teams are continuing to study the damage, the weather service’s office in Chicago said on Twitter.
Ty Carr, a resident of the Skyline Motel in McCook, Illinois, said the tornado ripped off his roof.
“Just chaos,” said Carr, cradling the baby while talking to reporters. “It was very fast, and the noises, and the crackling, and the wind – it was something that I had never seen or gone through, you know?”
Rajan Patel, whose family owns the motel, said his family came to Chicago in the 1990s with nothing and now their motel is badly damaged.
“The whole place is destroyed,” Patel said. “I don’t know, dude. I don’t know how to restore anything. I don’t know.”
The meteorological service posted a map on social media that highlighted nine areas highlighted in yellow, including the Cicero area, where either storm damage was reported or radar signs of possible tornadoes were reported, Jake said. Teams will determine if these areas have been hit by tornadoes, and if so, will work to determine their trails and intensity ratings.
The weather service said the alleged tornadoes were caused by rotating thunderstorms known as supercells.
Meteorologist Victor Jencini calculated that most of Wednesday’s tornadoes “were fairly short-lived and fairly weak.”
The early morning showers and cloud cover dampened any instability that could have built up in the atmosphere, and the storm system was shorter vertically and less deadly than a typical tornado, Gencini, a professor of meteorology at Northern Illinois University, said.
“Sometimes thunderstorms can be so high and strong that they reach … 60,000 feet. Storms were at 25,000 or 30,000 feet yesterday,” he said.
Gencini said a group of storms formed in the middle or late afternoon in northwest Illinois, moved toward the Interstate 39 corridor and eventually into Chicago’s western suburbs, peaking in intensity from about 5 to 6:30 p.m. CT.
“I feel sad for the people who are cleaning and collecting tree branches today, but at least we are not talking about funeral planning,” he said.
Hillary Timp in a village, Illinois, a suburb southwest of Chicago, was with her husband Greg when a tornado quickly swept through their neighborhood, damaging homes. No one was hurt, although the force of the tornado tore their 100-year-old tree out of the ground.
“When the wind picked up very strongly, very quickly, and I was like: “Basement – now! Grab the dog, let’s go! And it wasn’t more than a couple of seconds after that, it became really insane.”
Television video shows hundreds of people taking shelter in O’Hare’s lobby. About 173 flights departing from the airport have been canceled and more than 500 delayed, according to FlightAware flight tracking service.
Kevin Bargnes, director of communications for O’Hare International Airport and Chicago Midway, told WGN-TV on Wednesday evening that no damage was reported at either airport.
The Met Office quoted an unnamed emergency manager as saying the roof had been blown off in the Huntley area of McHenry County northwest of Chicago. Huntley Battalion Commander Mike Pierce told ABC-7-TV that firefighters and other emergency services were responding to downed power lines, trees and tree limbs, and that there were reports of power outages. According to him, the damage to the buildings appeared to be concentrated around two blocks of flats.
More than 10,000 customers in the region lost power, according to poweroutage.us, but power had largely been restored by Thursday morning.
In southern Michigan, a weather service team detected a tornado with a maximum wind speed of 90 mph (145 km/h) that originated shortly after 11 p.m. over a storage facility near the village of Colon, about 30 miles (48 km) southeast of Kalamazoo . The team found that garage doors had been kicked in and roofing materials had been blown up to 200 yards (meters) into the fields. Trees were also damaged.
Many tornadoes have hit the Chicago metropolitan area over the years, with several within the Chicago city limits, according to the National Weather Service. Between 1855 and 2021, the weather service recorded 97 significant tornadoes in the Chicago metro area.
The deadliest one formed in Palos Hills in Cook County on April 21, 1967. The tornado flew 16 miles (26 kilometers) through Oak Lawn and South Chicago, killing 33 people, injuring 500 and causing more than $50 million in damage. to the weather service.
Callahan reported from Indianapolis.