CHICAGO (WTVO) — A confirmed EF-3 tornado swept through communities in heavily populated suburban Chicago, damaging more than 100 homes, toppling trees, knocking out power and causing multiple injuries, officials said.
The National Weather Service said the tornado carried winds of 140 mph, and moved from Naperville to Willow Springs.
There was relief Monday, though, as authorities reported that it appeared no one had died. Less than a dozen people were hurt in the tornado that touched down after 11 p.m. Sunday, and all were expected to recover.
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.
“It could have been a lot worse, I will say that,” Puknaitis said. “When you look at the destruction that has occurred over this five square block area or so, it’s amazing that we can stand here and report that we only had eight people that were transported to a hospital.”
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 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 a team with the National Weather Service began surveying damage Monday to determine its strength and path. The agency said one tornado likely caused damage in Naperville, Woodridge and Darien.
“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, 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.
The weather service was surveying areas of northern Indiana and southern Michigan to determine if damage there was caused by tornadoes or high winds, said Nathan Marsili with the National Weather Service. He noted that the town of Fremont in Indiana’s far northeastern corner sustained “pretty significant damage.”
Northern Indiana Public Service Co. reported that more than 15,000 of its customers remained without power at mid-afternoon Monday.
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. And in Missouri, a thunderstorm with strong winds whipped through parts of the state, knocking down trees and power lines.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.