CHICAGO – Thunderstorms that punched through northern Illinois raked the region with hail, heavy rain and winds of up to 85 mph, snapping or uprooting large trees and downing power lines.
The National Weather Service confirmed one weak, brief tornado northwest of Manteno in Kankakee County.
But the Chicago area was largely spared the worst of the overnight storms because they did not combine into the intense wall of severe weather as quickly as had been predicted.
“A lot of the storms stayed separate and ... were only really heavy rain and lightning and small hail producers,” weather service meteorologist Richard Castro in Romeoville said. “That real intense line of storms didn’t generally take shape” until farther south and east into Indiana and Ohio.
Surveyors from the weather service fanned out across parts of three northern Illinois counties to review storm damage after funnel clouds and possible tornadoes were reported by law enforcement personnel and trained spotters in the area.
The agency’s damage assessment teams headed Thursday to eastern Lee County, far southern DeKalb County and Kendall County to examine damage from Wednesday evening’s storm.
They focused on a corridor from Paw Paw and Shabonna east to Plano and Yorkville.
The National Weather Service confirmed an EF-0 tornado struck about 50 miles south of Chicago, in northern Kankakee County, where firefighters picked their way through a collapsed barn in Manteno to rescue several horses trapped inside, though one died.
“You could hear them crying for help,” the homeowner, Allanna Smith, told WMAQ-TV. “Just crying and crying for help, and it’s such a heart-wrenching sound coming from an animal, especially when you’re such an animal lover.”
Smith said she saw funnel clouds forming moments before the structure was destroyed. The tornado had a maximum estimated wind speed of 85 mph, traveled for about a quarter-mile and was 50 yards wide. It touched down near the farm and forecasters said it dissipated quickly in a field east of the farm.
A fire that destroyed a house in the southwest Chicago suburb of Lemont was blamed on a lightning strike, WMAQ reported.
Flash flooding that mainly affected roadways was also reported in some areas, especially in Kankakee County, the weather service said.
ComEd officials say about 9,200 customers were still without power on Thursday morning while another 1,600 Ameren customers were also in the dark.