Chainsaws and wood chippers buzzed through a cool but humid noon hour today, just hours after a fierce thunderstorm slashed through Riverside and Brookfield, downing power lines and trees in both villages. The storm whipped through the villages, with the strongest winds appearing to have followed a path roughly along the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Railroad line.
Work crews swarmed over the villages beginning shortly after the worst of the storms ended around 8 p.m. Wednesday. By Thursday afternoon, large tree limbs and, in some cases, entire trees still sat by roadsides waiting for crews to remove them.
Unincorporated Riverside Lawn may have been hit hardest, with toppled trees and limbs snapping power lines feeding the Village of Riverside. In at least one instance, the top of one power pole was sheared off, leaving lines strewn across the forest floor.
Riverside Public Works Director Michael Hullihan said that the strongest winds appeared to travel roughly from southwest to northeast parallel to the railroad tracks. Two large oak trees on Riverside Road just east of village hall were blown down, while another on the south side of Scottswood Common was flattened. Tree branches lay scattered along the length of Scottswood Common.
Near the western intersection of Scottswood and Bloomingbank roads, a large tree fell on a Lexus automobile, crushing the top and smashing the windshield.
At 251 Scottswood Road, a foot-long diameter limb from an oak tree blew down into the front yard of the home, snapping an 8-inch diameter pine tree like a matchstick. The debris from both trees completely blocked the front entrance to the home, but missed hitting the structure by about six feet.
“[The wind] sounded like a train going through,” said Renee Moravek, the home’s owner. “It was like the storm in the ‘Wizard of Oz’. The pine tree stopped that branch from coming over and hitting the house.”
According to Justin Stachnik, meteorologist at the National Weather Service’s Chicago Forecast Office, Wednesday night’s storm produced sustained winds between 50 and 60 mph, with locally heavier gusts.
Riverside Village Forester Michael Collins said that at least four entire trees had been blown down during the storm and that “two to three dozen” others suffered significant damage.
Riverside Public Works crews cleared roadways and driveways of debris from 8 p.m. to midnight on Wednesday, resuming work again at 7 a.m. Thursday morning.
The Riverside Police Department received 24 weather-related calls between 7:18 p.m. and midnight, mainly to report power outages and damaged trees. The department and the entire Township Hall, 27 Riverside Road, remained without power as of 3 p.m. Thursday, although the police department was operating off generator power.
In addition, the heavy rains caused some damage to the police station lobby, when a portion of the false ceiling over the lobby fell in.
According to Assistant Police Chief Thomas Weitzel, the department’s radio communications were also affected by the storm. A lightning strike to either the antenna atop the Township Hall or the building itself forced the police department to switch to a backup frequency for radio communications. That backup frequency was still in use Thursday afternoon.
The village’s water system was also running on an alternate power source, according to Hullihan, since power had been knocked out to the main pumping station.
In Brookfield the extent of the damage appeared to be heaviest north of Ogden Avenue. In the 3600 block of Vernon Avenue, one tree was blown over entirely, while large limbs fell from trees in other areas of the village.
Brookfield Police Chief Patrick Lenzi said that a utility poles was “snapped” in the alley behind the 9100 block of Lincoln Avenue. Meanwhile, a tree fell into wires in the alley between the 4100 blocks of Madison and Raymond avenues.
“The weight leaned the whole pole so that it almost fell down,” Lenzi said. “Wires were sparking and arcing.”
Downed wires also were reported along Southview Avenue between Blanchan and Cleveland avenues. As of noon Thursday, fire department personnel had cordoned off another downed line at the intersection of Sunnyside and Sheridan avenues. That line, which provides power to a street light, had been downed by a large ash tree limb that fell into Sunnyside Avenue.
Brookfield Public Works Director William Brandt reported that a 10-man crew worked through the night until 7 a.m. clearing up storm damage. He added that ash, Bradford pear and silver maple trees were the ones that appeared to have suffered the worst damage in the storm.
Power knocked out
Meanwhile, hundreds of residents waited for power to be restored to their homes. In Riverside, as of noon, the entire village south of the BNSF tracks had been without power for 16 hours. Brookfield residents and businesses in the Eight Corners area were without power into Thursday afternoon, with scattered outages elsewhere in the village.
ComEd spokesman Jeff Burdick said that he did not have an exact count of customers affected by power outages in the village, but said that the company was steadily working to restore power to affected areas. At the height of the storm, Burdick said, some 40,000 ComEd customers throughout the Chicago metro area were without power.