Ed Krzeminski shows off the stop sign imbedded in a tree in his front yard on Lorraine Drive. (Photos by Steve Metsch)
Suspected tornado slams Countryside, nearby towns
By Steve Metsch
A suspected tornado slammed into the south part of Countryside around 6 p.m. Wednesday, causing plenty of damage but no known injuries.
Damage was also reported in Hodgkins, Lyons and McCook.
“There’s lots of damage, but no injuries have been reported. That’s great news,” Countryside Mayor Sean McDermott said at 8:45 p.m.
“A couple of homes were severely damaged, but most sustained minimal damage. A lot of tree damage,” McDermott said.
Asked if the storm can be considered a tornado, McDermott said: “I haven’t heard an official report of a touchdown, but it sure has the appearances of one.”
The National Weather Service has confirmed that multiple tornadoes touched down in the Chicago area Wednesday evening.
Former Countryside Mayor Ed Krzeminski thinks he has proof positive in his front yard where a stop sign was embedded in a tree trunk in the 6900 block of Lorraine Drive.
“That’s going to stay there for a while. That’s imbedded pretty good,” he said. “We’ve haven’t ever seen anything like this.”
The neighborhood south of 67th Street on either side of Willow Springs Road was hit hard.
Nodding to the west side of Lorraine Drive, Krzeminski said, “All the tops of the trees are gone, so the tornado came by and went right over us. … I take tornadoes seriously. We were in the basement (after) we saw the debris flying.”
A house at Parkside and Sunset suffered severe damage he said: “All the windows are blown out and the roof is bowed.”
Barry Quint, 72, was busy around 7 p.m. visiting neighbors’ yards with his chainsaw, cutting through heavy limbs and branches.
“It sounded like they say (a tornado) sounds like. Like a freight train. A very powerful howling sound,” Quint said.
“It’s the scariest thing I’ve ever gone through, and I’ve done a lot of stuff. … I ran at Santa Fe (Speedway), drag racing, 160 miles an hour. This was scarier,” he said
It’s no surprise, McDermott said, that many residents were helping out like Quint.
“Quite a few people are doing that. It’s nice to see. …The neighbors are all coming out to help one another, which is what our town is all about,” he said.
McDermott, aldermen, other city officials and residents were herded to the basement of city hall when tornado sirens sounded shortly before a 6:15 committee meeting was set to start. Two committee meetings and the city council meeting were canceled.
As neighbors sawed through fallen trees outside her family’s home in the 6900 block of Willow Springs Road, Tati Vidakovich recalled the harrowing experience.
“My mom was outside. All of a sudden, it got so dark. I heard my mom scream ‘help, help.’ I was freaking out. My mom came inside and yelled ‘get in the basement.’ As soon as we got down there, we felt the house shake, hear the glass shatter. It was insane,” Vidakovich said.
Her friend from Lincolnshire, Alyssa Shack, 20, was sitting in her car outside the house.
“The trees were falling, flying everywhere. I thought it would come through my windshield, but it didn’t,” Shack said.
Vidakovich has been through tornado warnings before. Usually, that means the family watches a movie downstairs.
“This is the first time ever (like this) … It was black in our basement. It was so scary,” Vidakovich said.
One man joked that sawing through tree limbs was good exercise, but is something he’d rather not be doing.
Phil Sparks, of the 1000 block of Maplewood, was shocked to see his backyard shed elevated about five feet off the ground, power lines wrapped around it.
“I heard the alarm on my phone. I went outside to look. You know how they say it sounds like a freight train? I heard that noise and I ran inside. Before I got to the basement, I heard two trees hit (vehicles in the driveway). It came quick,” Sparks said.
Traffic heading south on Willow Springs Road was briefly diverted to 67th Street as city crews worked to cut a tree that had fallen over the roadway near 69th Street, Countryside Police Sgt. Paul Lanzi said.
“I watched from the (police) station,” he said. “I saw stuff flying up in the air.”
City Treasurer Courtney Bolt, her husband Mike, their friends and children were busy dragging what remained of a wooden swingset from their backyard.
“There’s a lot of damage on the west side of Willow Springs Road,” she said. “There are roofs gone. An elderly lady has a huge hole in her ceiling.”
Brenda Lazansky thinks her house may have been spared damage thanks to grandmother’s car.
Parked in the driveway, Janice Orbon’s car blocked a tree – uprooted from across the street – from striking the house, Lazansky said.
The backyard wasn’t as fortunate. A gazebo lost most of its windows. And a weeping willow tree the family had planted when son Michael was born was uprooted.
“It’s very weird,” Michael, 11, said of the storm.
“We’re lucky we have a basement,” Brenda added. “We could almost feel the pressure. I always thought there’s no way there could be a tornado in Countryside.”
Neighboring towns helped Countryside by sending cleanup crews.
“Willow Springs, Lyons Township, Burr Ridge, other communities have reached out to offer assistance, which is great,” McDermott said.
Neighboring communities were not spared.
In McCook, a tree company with an office on Joliet Road west of First Avenue had lost much of its roof.
In Hodgkins, winds flipped over cart corrals onto vehicles in the parking lot of Menards.
Power lines were downed and a small fire reported on the border between McCook and Lyons, according to Lyons Fire Chief Gordon Nord.
The weather service said a “large and extremely dangerous” tornado was spotted near Summit.
Damage was also reported in Bridgeview and Stickney.
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