Storms leave trail of damage on Chicago’s Southwest Side
BY STEVE METSCH AND MIKE DEACON firstname.lastname@example.org July 24, 2012 12:36PM
Cynthia Freburg looks over the damage to her home at 10333 S. Albany after a tree fell during this mornings storm. | Larry Ruehl~Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 26, 2012 6:13AM
Patrick Benkowski wasn’t going out on a limb Tuesday when he said he’s had better days.
But given that he nearly was imprisoned in a house in Chicago’s Mount Greenwood community by two giant trees that fell on the home — blocking some doorways and windows — going out on a limb probably seemed like a viable option at one point.
Like Benkowski and his girlfriend Cindy Freburg, many Southlanders had to deal with a trail of damage left in the wake of early morning thunderstorms that moved through the area. There still were widely scattered power outages as Tuesday evening, flights were delayed at both Midway and O’Hare airports, and forecasts called for more rain overnight.
Among the areas particularly hard hit by high winds were the Mount Greenwood and Beverly communities, where downed trees blocked streets and power was knocked out to at least 2,000 homes, according to 19th Ward Ald. Matt O’Shea said.
Large branches felled by the storm, which started about 3 a.m., blocked roadways in the 2500 block of 115th Street, the 9300 block of Winchester Avenue, the 9400 block of Longwood Drive, and the 9300 block of Claremont Avenue, O’Shea said.
They blocked Benkowski’s path out the door, too.
“Cindy had gone to work at 6 a.m., and I fell back asleep on the couch,” he said. “About 6:30, there was this gigantic bang. I looked up, and it was like extra dark in the front window.
“I pulled up the shade to see this tree had fallen into the wall around the window but, amazingly, did not break the window. And I couldn’t get out the front door. The power went out a few minutes later to kind of add to the insanity.”
Fortunately, Benkowski said, the power came back on about 15 minutes later. He made his way out a side door, wrestled with a gate that another tree had fallen against, and then took in the scope of the damage.
A giant awning over the front door was dislodged and hanging. The chimney was damaged, and limbs covered the air conditioning unit, which had to be shut off.
“It was way more extensive than I had realized,” Benkowski said. “I’ve never been through anything like it.”
Freburg, who has insurance, returned from work to see the damage for herself.
“It was a shock, I would say,” she said.
Freburg and Benkowski both said city crews had gone above and beyond in responding to start the cleanup. And they won’t have to vacate the home in the 10300 block of Albany Avenue.
Regionally, ComEd spokesman John Schoen said, more than 300,000 customers had lost power at one point, including more than 40,000 in the South Region.
“It wasn’t a long event, but it was a powerful event,” Schoen said. “The high winds and lightning strikes caused a lot of damage.”
Airlines cancelled at least 100 flights at O’Hare, and delays of up to 45 minutes were reported at Midway on Tuesday morning.
The power was out all day at the village hall in Homewood, as well.
Overnight and Wednesday morning, there was a 40 to 50 percent chance of rain in the Chicago area, with temperatures rising into the mid to high 90s Wednesday afternoon, according to the National Weather Service.
Contributing: Sun-Times Media Wire