From her northern Wisconsin vacation home, Donna Bailey was checking weather reports of flooding back home in Lake County when the phone rang with the most unfathomable news Wednesday afternoon: The Libertyville home she'd shared with her husband, Gerry, and their dogs and cats for 32 years had exploded.
"I just went, 'What?!' And I handed my husband the phone. I was shaking so badly, I just couldn't stop," Bailey told the Daily Herald Thursday.
Bailey spends the majority of the summer at the couple's cabin in Pinehurst, Wisconsin, traveling back to the suburbs every few weeks for breast cancer treatments. The pets also were in Wisconsin.
The last time anyone had been in the Libertyville property -- a 1½-story cottage style home on a large wooded lot -- was Saturday, Bailey said.
"Everything was fine," she said. "Now there's nothing for me to go back to except a broken heart."
Police were alerted to the blast on the 1700 block of North Sunnyview Road shortly after 2:30 p.m. On social media, people reported hearing or feeling the blast from miles away.
"I could feel the vibration of it in my house," said Aisha Bawani, who lives one street over from the Baileys' house.
Donna Bailey said she'd been informed of the explosion before 3 p.m. A day later, her counter is filled with slips of paper holding the numbers of Libertyville and Lake County police and fire officials who've called to check in on her.
Immediately upon hanging up the phone Wednesday, Gerry Bailey jumped in his car and drove four hours south along flooded roads to find a large portion of the Libertyville home flattened.
"He made it, and he's not an emotional-type person, but he said to me, it's very sad. It's a good thing you didn't come. You'd be shaking so bad you'd just collapse," Donna Bailey said.
Libertyville Fire Chief Rich Carani said the cause of the explosion is still unknown. He said the home "blew up, collapsed on itself. There was no fire, which was surprising." What remains of the home is its detached garage, which was damaged, Carani said.
Mementos, including Donna's collection of angels, were gone. Gerry Bailey found a spare set of keys lying in the yard.
Because of the large lots of the surrounding homes -- most are about an acre -- Carani said no neighbors' homes were damaged and no residents were evacuated from the area.
In June in Marengo, a house explosion leveled a neighboring house and damaged as many as 50 others.
"Luckily, we had that great big yard," Bailey said. "If it wasn't for our big trees, pieces would be out on Peterson road."