(CHICAGO) Five tornado touchdowns Monday night in Will, Kankakee, Lee, Grundy and LaSalle counties left behind heavy damage and knocked out power for thousands.
The most recent tornado touchdown was reported about 10:20 p.m. near Interstate 57 in Bourbonnais in Kankakee County, according to the National Weather Service. A tornado touched down 10 minutes earlier in Lakewood Shores, just southeast of Braidwood in southwest Will County, according to the weather service.
About 10 p.m. there was a confirmed report of a tornado touchdown in Coal City, according to the National Weather Service. The city also was hit by a tornado in November 2013.
Late into the night, crews were going door to door in parts of devastated Coal City, a town of about 5,000 people.
“We have search and rescue operations that are continuously extricating people from their residences,” said Lt. Nick Doerfler of the Coal City Fire Protection District.
There were no reports of fatalities or life-threatening injuries, but at 2:30 a.m., crews didn’t have an accurate count of how many homes might be affected or how many people might be missing.
Doerfler said he could confirm that one person had been taken to an area hospital for treatment.
“We have trees down, we have [power] lines down, we have poles down and we have flooding,” Coal City Police Sgt. Thomas Logan said. “We tried to get over there one time just using a normal truck and we got bogged down.”
A lot of the searching was being done on foot, Logan said.
Coal City’s neighboring city, Diamond, was hit by a tornado in November 2013, damaging about 25 percent of the homes and injuring three people, Diamond Mayor Teresa Kernc said.
Roads into Coal City, including Route 113 east of Route 47, were closed. Interstate 55 near Coal City exits also was jammed, according to eyewitness reports.
At 8:08 p.m., a tornado was confirmed on the ground in the town of Sublette in Lee County, about 55 miles south of Rockford. About 9 p.m., another was spotted on radar near Serena in LaSalle County, about 30 miles southwest of Aurora.
Late Monday, authorities told reporters at the scene in Sublette that despite heavy damage and up to 50 downed oak trees across Woodhaven Lakes — a sprawling, 1,600-acre camping resort — only one person was hospitalized in serious but stable condition. Four people were treated for injuries at the campground.
Downed trees and debris trapped many people inside their homes and they were forced to wait for removal crews to free them, authorities said. Several power lines were downed in the storm, as well, creating a challenge for crews looking for trapped residents.
“There is just tremendous destruction out there,” said Don Dinges, Sublette’s economic development coordinator. “They are not even able to get through the property to find if there are injuries.”
Dinges said the area was littered with downed trees. “They’ve fallen on trailers,” Dinges said.
Roughly 23,000 customers were without power early Tuesday in towns throughout Kankakee, Will, Whiteside, Lee and Grundy counties, according to ComEd’s outage map on its website. Most of the outages were near Braidwood and Coal City in Will County, Sterling in Whiteside County and Kankakee in Kankakee County.
A flash-flood emergency was issued through 6:15 a.m. for Kankakee County. The weather service said many roads are impassable because of storms that left 3 to 4 inches of rain in several areas.
A tornado warning means a twister has been spotted in the area; a watch means conditions are favorable for the development of tornados in that area.
Forecasters say the development of the thunderstorms could be “explosive” in some areas. Torrential downpours that could cause isolated flooding in some places and “a tornado or two” is possible as well, according to the weather service.
Airlines at O’Hare Airport proactively canceled 450 flights, and planes were delayed an average of 30 minutes as of 1:30 p.m., according to the city’s Department of Aviation. More than 60 flights were canceled at Midway Airport.
Below are photos from Network Video Productions showing heavily damaged structures in Woodhaven Lakes — a sprawling, 1,600-acre camping resort in Sublette.