Bill Harlander remembers when he planted the elm sapling on the parkway in front of his house in the 9100 block of 26th Place in Brookfield.
“It was just a stick when I planted it in 1985,” said Harlander, who has lived in his brick raised ranch for the past 53 years.
Harlander doesn’t have that tree shading his home any longer. Heck, he’s lucky to have a roof.
About 9 p.m. on June 21, a violent storm with wind gusts up to 75 mph, according to the National Weather Service, ripped through the area. The storm uprooted mature trees, like the one in Harlander’s parkway, sheared off large branches, knocked over power poles and snapped power lines.
Greg Gall was on his front porch, across the street from Harlander’s house, when the storm blew in.
“I was standing there holding the railing when the winds rolled through and trees started snapping all around me,” said Gall. “It scared the hell out of me.”
He heard a crack – a limb blowing off a neighbor’s tree – and then watched a section of the grass parkway across the street get ripped out of the ground as the huge elm fell toward Harlander’s house. He ran to the home of Terry Schreiber, a Brookfield police officer, and the two sprinted over to Harlander’s home to check on his well-being.
“The whole street was covered with trees,” Gall said.
The elm tree in front of Harlander’s home fell directly north onto the roof. The parkway came up with the root system, along with Harlander’s driveway apron. Harlander was sitting inside watching TV at the time.
“I thought I heard falling branches on [the east] side of the house,” Harlander said. He made it out of his front door to find the tree shrouding the west side of his home. The home’s aluminum gutters were bent some, but the roof – apart from a dusting of sawdust left from the removal operation – appeared undamaged.
“With all the branches and leaves, there wasn’t a sharp impact,” Harlander said. “I was surprised, of course.”
A Brookfield public works crew was on the scene within the hour and a tree removal company began taking the tree off Harlander’s roof some time later. They finished up about 3:30 a.m.
“When they finally cut enough branches, the tree started to upright. Someone yelled, ‘Timber!'” said Harlander. “Except it was in reverse.”
According to Tabrina Davis, a spokeswoman for ComEd, the storm left more than 400,000 customers in the Chicago metro area without power. By noon on June 22, power had been restored to 175,000 customers, leaving almost 240,000 – mostly in the north and northwest suburbs – without power.
Harlander and his neighbors on the far north end of Brookfield were among those still without power late on the morning of June 22.
“I had power until it went out at about 9:45 [Wednesday] morning,” he said.
Some residents in Riverside reported being without power as late as Friday.
Brookfield police reported about four dozen calls to their dispatch center for either storm-related damage to trees or downed power lines between 8:20 and 8:45 p.m. on June 21 from all over the village. At least two vehicles and two other homes were damaged by falling tree limbs.
In Riverside, a home in the 100 block of Michaux Road narrowly escaped being struck by a mature maple tree that was uprooted and fell directly toward the house. The parkway was also uprooted when the tree fell.
Riverside Village Forester Michael Collins said several trees were lost on public property and that the First Division appeared to be hardest hit. Large ash trees on Fairbank Road and in Swan Pond were casualties of the storm.
The public works department spent the night of June 21 clearing roads and driveways of fallen tree limbs. “About five to six trees are a loss and there are probably two dozen large branches on top of that,” Collins said the morning after the storm.