Meatballs in tomato sauce were left untouched in the skillet on the stove Thursday morning.
Such was Kathy Collins’ rush to escape her kitchen the night before to run down to the basement.
“We turned off the gas, went up the stairs, and then things started collapsing,” said Collins, 60.
Chainsaws buzzing and woodcutters growling down Collins Street on Thursday in the rural western suburbs. A blue tarpaulin stretched over the Collins roof where its chimney collapsed Wednesday night, shortly after the pouring rain and wailing sirens began.
The tornado made landfall on Burr Ridge, looping west to east across Indian Head Park, Countryside and Hodgkins, said Karl Argast, chief of the Pleasantview Fire Protection District. Firefighters responded to 47 calls in the first hour after the tornado hit, but there were no known injuries, Argast said.
“Unbelievably amazing – a blessing, given the amount of damage,” said Argast.
Argast echoes a familiar refrain when he says he has never seen a wind like it tearing his district apart.
By Thursday afternoon, National Weather Service meteorologists had confirmed at least three tornadoes from the previous day’s storm system, although more were expected to be verified along nine stretches with significant damage across Chicago and its collar area. One is thought to be near O’Hare Airport.
One confirmed EF1 tornado — on a scale that goes up to EF5 — tore through the southwestern suburbs with top winds of 110 mph on a path from Burr Ridge to Stickney. Many trees were “broken and uprooted,” forecasters said.
Ted Berger, executive director of the Cook County Emergency Management and Regional Safety Department, said local authorities began receiving reports of damage along the roughly 10-mile corridor within minutes of a tornado warning being issued at 6:10 p.m. Wednesday.
Wind damage was also reported in parts of northwestern Cook County, but a tornado was not confirmed there, Berger said.
“We are fortunate to say that we are not aware of any significant fatalities or injuries from this dangerous storm,” Berger said. “And we are very grateful to have a strong emergency activation system. If this happens during rush hour, with hundreds of drivers on the road, it exponentially increases the risk.”
Two tornadoes were confirmed in Elgin: an EF1 with winds of 100 mph moving along Route 47 towards Villa Olivia Golf Course, and an EF0 just south of it, spewing winds of 85 mph on a path from McDonald Road to Hopps Road.
The tornado split a tree in half on the 6900 block of Willow Springs Road in Countryside.
Marion Novak, 77, stood in the front yard of Countryside Thursday, waiting to hear back from his insurance agent. Fragments of roof rafters jutted from the forecourt like spears. His garage door was found high in a tree two blocks from his house.
“In 77 years, apart from anyone I know who has been sick, this is the worst thing that’s ever happened,” Novak said.
He was sitting down to watch the TV show “Jeopardy” when the wind started picking up. Everything went dark. he cursed.
“I stepped back and then I heard everything fall,” he said.
He’s lucky. He is behind his house. The storm tore off part of the roof over his dining room at the front of the house, leaving his ceiling fan hanging by a string from a bare ceiling beam.
“This is not my time,” he said, before taking a call from the insurance company.
Collins also counted his blessings, even though the storm knocked down a dozen trees in his backyard and knocked down his chimney.
“I was always told by my father: Have a house with a basement,” he says. “I am very blessed that no one was injured. Almighty Father supports me.”
Near Hodgkins, half a dozen bright red beefsteak tomatoes strewn across the parking lot of an Ettleson Cadillac, where a tornado picked up and tossed a shopping cart from the nearby Sam’s Club.
Mike Ettleson, the owner, was driving home at about 6:10 p.m. Wednesday when his cell phone rang — warning of an approaching tornado. He got a call from his service manager saying, “We’ve been hit.”
Workers hauled tarpaulins over a damaged section of the service area Thursday, but the showroom was left untouched, Ettleson said.
“No one was injured – we were lucky for that. It was late, and the shop was almost empty,” he said.
Elgin homeowner Robert Naviaux said the storm passed through his neighborhood in an instant, leaving debris and fallen trees in everyone’s front yard.
“We went straight to our basement when it happened and we could hear things going on but it ended so quickly,” said Naviaux. “That’s what surprised me the most, it was here and then gone maybe in a minute.”
Naviaux said he was concerned for the safety of his next-door neighbors and their dog and tried to reach them by phone to warn them of the storm.
Joann Harms, who also lives in the Edgewater by Del Webb subdivision, said she went out to celebrate her 54th wedding anniversary.
“When I got to the restaurant I noticed I was starting to get a lot of calls,” says Harms. “My dog Wrigley is afraid of thunder and lightning. And I’m afraid he’ll just be scared.”
Part of Del Webb’s Edgewater subdivision at Elgin was blocked off on Thursday while a storm cleanup was in progress.
While some of the houses showed little damage, other parts of the neighborhood were closed.
Many residents spent the day helping each other retrieve the debris.
“Thankfully a lot of us are fine, but there are some houses that are damaged enough that they can’t go back to their homes,” said Naviaux. “The positive thing is everyone on the street is helping each other, and the cleanup is very fast.”
Several trees were uprooted by the storm and another was snapped in half at Elgin.
The weather service is investigating reports of potential tornado damage in southern Lake County from the Barrington area to Lake Zurich. A county spokesman said most were limited to one fallen tree in Long Grove, along with a power outage.
Berger noted the storm “added to the challenge” for Cook County residents who navigated through thousands of flooded cellars and other damage on July 2, when nearly 9 inches of rain drenched the area. Governor JB Pritzker issued a disaster proclamation earlier this week after the rainstorm.
Residents in Chicago should file a damage report to 311, said Berger. Suburban residents should check with their local officials on how to submit the report.
Debris littered the streets in Del Webb’s Edgewater subdivision neighborhood.
Below is a map highlighting the area where we suspect the tornado may have landed last night. Our team will be out surveying the damage today to pinpoint where this tornado is tracking. Stay tuned for updates over the next few days. #ILwx pic.twitter.com/SafDnyI3uF
— NWS Chicago (@NWSChicago) July 13, 2023
The tornado caused a chimney collapse Wednesday night in the 6900 block of Willow Springs Road in Countryside.
The National Weather Service has yet to assess the tornado that hit several western suburbs late Wednesday.
Hilary Timpe watches as workers remove a fallen tree outside her home on the 10,000 block of Hillsdale Road in the Countryside.
An electric pole fell on the 10,000 block of Hillsdale Road in Countryside on Wednesday.
An American flag is seen through the branches of a fallen tree on a house on the 10,000 block of Hillsdale Road in the Countryside.
The tornadoes damaged homes and ratcheted up the distance from Burr Ridge to Hodgkins on Wednesday.
A worker cuts down a fallen tree at a house on the 10,000 block of Hillsdale Road in the Countryside.
Fallen trees are a common sight on Thursdays in the western suburbs.
Mike Ettleson, owner of Ettleson Cadillac Buick dealership at GMC in Hodgkins, surveyed hurricane damage Thursday.
Workers clearing debris Thursday outside GMC’s Ettleson Cadillac Buick dealership in Hodgkins.
A home and four-unit apartment building on Douglass Avenue in Huntley were damaged in the storm Wednesday.
The storm damaged trees, fences and roofs on Wednesday in the Elgin neighborhood around Annandale and Mission Hills roads.
Homes on Stoney Creek Drive in the Edgewater by Del Webb subdivision of Elgin were damaged by the storm on Wednesday.