Three days after a storm whipped through the area, damaging hundreds of trees and leaving damaged homes, vehicles and other property in its wake, Riverside’s president proclaimed a local state of emergency at the June 16 meeting of the village board.
President Joseph Ballerine said, after reading the proclamation early in the June 16 meeting that he invoked the state of emergency in order to access possible funding to help the village, residents and business owners. The state of emergency will last until the next meeting of the village board on July 7.
“This allows the village of Riverside to work with other municipalities as well as the state and county for possible relief funds,” Ballerine said on June 16.
In a follow-up interview, Ballerine told the Landmark he and other mayors whose towns were slammed by the storm – including North Riverside, Westchester and Bellwood – would be meeting with Cook County commissioners Frank Aguilar (D-16th) and Brandon Johnson (D-1st) on June 22 in Westchester to see how to proceed on getting access to emergency funds, which would most likely be in the form of loans.
On June 20, North Riverside Mayor Joseph Mengoni announced that he would also retroactively declare a state of emergency beginning June 13 in order to seek relief funds.
If the municipalities can show that they’ve incurred at least $19.3 million in costs related to storm damage and the subsequent cleanup, they may also be eligible for federal funding through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Ballerine said.
Meanwhile, the cleanup continues in Brookfield, North Riverside and Riverside, through which the June 13 storm traveled from northwest to southeast bringing straight-line winds topping 80 mph, according to the National Weather Service, which called it a “supercell” storm.
An EF-0 tornado touched down in unincorporated Schaumburg and moved into Roselle before lifting, the NWS reported. The strongest straight-line winds, reaching at least 90 mph, hit Bellwood and northern Westchester, causing structural damage to buildings.
Those winds skirted the western limit of North Riverside, snapping utility poles at 25th Avenue and Cermak Road, and causing extensive tree damage in North Riverside west of 8th Avenue and then southeast, hitting the forest preserves hard near Caledonia Senior Living.
No trees or large limbs struck the nursing home, but several trees were damaged on its grounds and along its edges, smashing fences and blocking access to the facility for a time on the night June 13.
“Mercifully, nothing fell on the home,” said Gus Noble, president of Caledonia Senior Living. “Nothing fell on anybody’s cars, no one was hurt. But, there was significant damage to our trees.”
The extent of the damage is such that Noble put out an appeal last week, asking for donations to help fund the cost of the cleanup, repairs and replanting. Anyone interested in making a donation to that fund online can visit caledoniaseniorliving.org/fundraising/grounds.
Tree impales truck windshield, driver
At least one local resident was seriously injured during the storm. Brookfield emergency personnel responded to the vicinity of 31st Street and McCormick Avenue just after 7 p.m., when winds were at their most intense.
Just west of McCormick Avenue, police located a blue pickup truck with heavy front-end damage facing westbound off the roadway on the grassy area. A large tree branch had crashed through the windshield, and the driver, a 64-year-old North Riverside man, had sustained a chest wound, police said. He suffered multiple injuries, including rib fractures, a fractured arm and wrist, a punctured lung and other internal injuries.
Local officials in all three villages indicated it could take weeks before the full extent of the damage and tree loss is calculated. Cleanup efforts by public works employees assisted by crews from multiple Chicago area suburbs and Cook County continued into this week.
It took until Saturday afternoon for crews to complete cleanup efforts north of the railroad tracks in Brookfield, said Public Works Director Carl Muell. Brookfield Forester Victor Janusz said his workers had delivered more than 100 truckloads of tree debris to a firm that turns it into mulch.
A full week after the storm, Riverside Forester Michael Collins was still in emergency cleanup mode. His crews as well as workers from the village’s third-party tree service had responded to more than 100 locations in the village to clear away branches hanging in trees above public spaces, endangering the safety of pedestrians and vehicles.
“It’s been a whirlwind,” Collins said.
Collins said he knew of nine or 10 buildings in Riverside struck by either large limbs or entire trees. A tree from a residential backyard that crashed into the wall of the Ames School gymnasium apparently did little to no damage, said District 96 Superintendent Martha Ryan-Toye.
“It fell against a part of the school where there are no windows,” Ryan-Toye said, who said a chain-link fence was damaged. “It also fell onto a power line and we lost power, but there was no danger to the building.”
North Riverside Public Works Director Vince Ranieri said crews there had trimmed at least 100 trees to remove hazards and that some of those trees might still need to come down completely.
Most of the debris had been picked up in the village over the weekend, with crews making a second pass June 20. North Riverside also received mutual aid help in the form of personnel, equipment and vehicles from Cook County and at least three other suburbs.
“The surrounding communities really stepped up and gave us a hand,” Ranieri said. “We’re just six guys [in North Riverside Public Works]. Not to mention it’s 105 [degrees outside]. It was nasty.”