A powerful tornado left a trail of destruction late Sunday night in DuPage County, a suburb of Chicago, injuring numerous residents and leaving property owners picking up the pieces of their homes on Monday.
Officials from the National Weather Service (NWS) in Chicago surveyed the damage later on Monday and said on Twitter that they "found damage consistent with an EF3 rating on the Enhanced Fujita Scale in Naperville." This was the first time in six years a tornado of EF2 force or stronger has impacted the greater Chicago area.
EF3 tornadoes can pack winds of 136-165 mph, according to the NWS. The EF3 tornado that struck Sunday is estimated to have reached 140 mph.
Shortly after the tornado confirmation, reports of damage began to pour in from the affected areas. According to the NWS in Chicago, the damaging storms left more than 100 homes damaged in the southwestern suburbs of the Windy City. A NWS report found that the tornado caused damage to around 230 residences, utility poles and many trees. Multiple injuries were also reported.
The tornado initially touched down near the southern edge of Naperville, Illinois, before it tracked east through Woodridge and Burr Ridge. It was confirmed via radar with what is known as a tornado debris signature, more often referred to as simply a "debris ball."
A debris ball can appear on radar once a tornado causes damage and lifts the debris from that damage hundreds or even thousands of feet into the air. This was the case for portions of DuPage County in northeastern Illinois on Sunday evening.
AccuWeather National Reporter Emmy Victor reported from hard-hit Naperville, Illinois, on Monday, and spoke with several residents who survived a brush with the violent storm.
"I rushed to the basement, I grabbed my cat, and then it was over. It was over so fast," Neha Syed, a Naperville resident, told Victor. Although it was a fast-moving storm, the tornado left behind major damage, some of the worst that people could remember.
Trees were downed and numerous homes were ravaged by the twister.
"I don't think it's ever been this major," Gerda Valuzis, another Naperville resident, said. She explained that she has seen tree branches down before, but never large trees like she witnessed after the tornado came through.
Victor spoke with organizations helping people to clean up after the storm in the Chicago area, but also residents who were beginning to pick up the pieces, including debris from roofs, drywall and trees scattered about.
Summer truly started with a bang for portions of the Midwest on Sunday evening as severe storms tore across the region. At one point Sunday evening, severe thunderstorm watches stretched across a nearly 600-mile swath of the country from Missouri to Indiana and eastward into Michigan and Ohio.
This radar image taken at 11 p.m. CDT, Sunday shows a line of severe thunderstorms approaching the greater Chicago metro. (AccuWeather Severe Weather Center)
One of the hardest-hit regions of the night was northern Illinois. Multiple severe thunderstorm warnings were issued across the northern half of the state as the summer solstice began. Unfortunately, embedded in these severe thunderstorms were several tornado-warned storms.
A line of severe thunderstorms prompted the NWS office in Chicago to issue several tornado warnings shortly before 11 p.m. CDT, Sunday.
At least one of these tornado-warned storms likely spawned a damaging tornado, and it did so in one of the most densely populated portions of the state--the greater Chicago metro.
Preliminary reports estimate the tornado had a maximum width of 600 yards, making its roughly 16-mile trek between 11:05 and 11:25 p.m., local time on Sunday night.
Two EF0 tornadoes were also included in the preliminary report, one in Romeoville and the second in South Haven, with estimated peak winds of 85 mph and 75 mph, respectively.
Reports of structural damage to homes and other buildings, downed trees and downed power lines were prevalent in Woodridge. The Woodridge Police Department urged residents to stay home as some streets were "impassible due to debris and first responder activity."
At least 16 homes have been deemed "uninhabitable" by Naperville city officials. Officials also noted that they had received more than 120 reports of property damage.
As of Tuesday evening, 11 injuries in Naperville and Woodridge were reported to have required medical treatment, and multiple minor injuries were treated at the scene.
Farther north, travelers at the Chicago O'Hare International Airport were forced to deplane and shelter in place as intense storms rolled through. Additionally, heavy rain led to flash flooding across portions of the airport compound.
At one point on early Monday morning, more than 36,000 customers were without power across Illinois, according to PowerOutage.us. The majority of these outages were located in DuPage and Cook counties. Other gusty storms contributed to an additional 134,000 power outages in Michigan and Indiana as of Monday afternoon.
Damaging thunderstorms continued to push eastward as the night progressed. Shortly after midnight CDT, tornado-warned severe thunderstorms pushed into northwestern Indiana. The NWS reported "fairly substantial damage" in South Haven, Indiana, and confirmed that a possible tornado was headed into extreme eastern Porter County and LaPorte County.
Survey teams from the NWS were dispatched on Monday to survey the damage caused by these dangerous storms.
Fortunately, clean-up efforts will not be hindered by Mother Nature early this week.
"Noticeably cooler and less humid conditions will filter in across the Midwest in the wake of the powerful cold front that spawned the thunderstorm activity," AccuWeather Meteorologist Brandon Buckingham said.
However, more feisty storms are in the forecast for the Midwest later in the week.
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