Derecho topples Wheaton church steeple, causes other damage across suburbs

  • Monday's high winds destroyed a house under construction on Melrose Street in Chicago's Avondale neighborhood.

    Monday's high winds destroyed a house under construction on Melrose Street in Chicago's Avondale neighborhood. Courtesy of Frances Cardenas

  • The steeple at Wheaton College church collapsed in Monday's storm. Several trees were also heavily damaged.

      The steeple at Wheaton College church collapsed in Monday's storm. Several trees were also heavily damaged. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Monday's severe storm toppled the steeple at College Church in Wheaton.

    Monday's severe storm toppled the steeple at College Church in Wheaton. Mark Welsh/mwelsh@dailyheld.com

  • Two of three tents outside Colonial Cafe, 1625 E. Main St. in St. Charles, were damaged by the storm Monday.

    Two of three tents outside Colonial Cafe, 1625 E. Main St. in St. Charles, were damaged by the storm Monday. Courtesy of Vanessa Bell-LaSota

  • Monday's storm downed a tree and telephone lines between Port of Blarney and Cuda's Bar and Grill on Grass Lake Road in Antioch.

    Monday's storm downed a tree and telephone lines between Port of Blarney and Cuda's Bar and Grill on Grass Lake Road in Antioch. Courtesy of Michelle Rybicki

 
 
Updated 8/11/2020 8:24 AM

A rare derecho -- described as an "inland hurricane" -- swept through the suburbs Monday, causing widespread property damage and leaving tens of thousands without power.

Some of the most dramatic damage was sustained by the iconic white steeple atop College Church in Wheaton.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"It's hanging off of the building," church spokesman Wil Triggs said. But no one was hurt, he said.

The steeple at College Church in Wheaton collapsed during Monday's derecho. Here, officials check out the damage from the rooftop.
  The steeple at College Church in Wheaton collapsed during Monday's derecho. Here, officials check out the damage from the rooftop. - Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

The church was founded 150 years ago, and the steeple was put up in the early 1980s. Church officials are taking stock of the damage to the structure at Seminary Avenue and Washington Street.

Though it's next to Wheaton College, the congregation is not affiliated with the school.

At Wheaton College, some tree limbs were torn off, but no buildings sustained any real damage on campus, school spokesman Joseph Moore said.

ComEd said more than 117,000 customers were without power in its service area as of 5 p.m., ABC 7 reported on its website.

A large limb blocks Ellsworth Street in Crystal Lake after Monday afternoon's storm.
  A large limb blocks Ellsworth Street in Crystal Lake after Monday afternoon's storm. - Paul Valade | Staff Photographer
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Lincolnshire police reported Milwaukee Avenue was closed from Route 22 to Olde Half Day Road due to a downed power line. ComEd told police the road could be closed until about 10 p.m. Monday night.

In Carpentersville, fire crews responded to 14 reports of downed power lines, one of which was believed to have sparked a detached garage fire on the 100 block of Golfview Lane, Police Chief Michael Kilbourne said. The blaze was extinguished quickly, he said, though it did damage the property.

This tree near Boyd's Hidout in Antioch was ravaged by Monday's high winds.
This tree near Boyd's Hidout in Antioch was ravaged by Monday's high winds. - Courtesy of Michelle Rybicki

On the 3000 block of Wakefield Drive, the storm caused a tree to fall into a house, hitting the roof and leaving the structure uninhabitable, Kilbourne said. No injuries were reported in either situation.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

In Rosemont, a power line went down on the shoulder of the southbound River Road on-ramp to the I-190 Kennedy Expressway.

Drivers in Rosemont were urged to use caution after Monday's storm brought down a light pole on southbound River Road near I-190
Drivers in Rosemont were urged to use caution after Monday's storm brought down a light pole on southbound River Road near I-190 - Courtesy of Superintendent Donald Stephens III

Lake County authorities reported trees and wires were down on Ela Road north of Lake-Cook Road in Deer Park, on Grass Lake Road east of Route 59 in Fox Lake, on Cuba Road east of Route 14 in Barrington, and on sections of Route 83 in Lake Villa, Grayslake and Buffalo Grove.

This tree fell and crushed an SUV near Lake Villa during Monday's storm, but no one was hurt.
This tree fell and crushed an SUV near Lake Villa during Monday's storm, but no one was hurt. - Courtesy of the Lake County sheriff's office

And a falling tree crushed an SUV in an unincorporated area near Lake Villa.

"This is our version of a hurricane," Northern Illinois University meteorology professor Victor Gensini said in an Associated Press interview from his home about 15 minutes before the storm was about to hit. Minutes later he headed to his basement for safety as the storm took aim at the suburbs.

The derecho Monday knocked down a goalpost at Kaneland High School.
The derecho Monday knocked down a goalpost at Kaneland High School. - Tweeted by Kaneland Athletics & Activities

Gensini said this derecho will go down as one of the strongest ones in recent history and be one of the worst weather events of 2020 for the nation.

The storm lasted several hours as it tore from eastern Nebraska to Iowa and then to Wisconsin and Illinois. The National Weather Service reported a wind gust of 92 mph near Dixon.

Although a derecho is described as an inland hurricane, it has no eye and its winds come across in a line. But the damage it is likely to do is more similar to the widespread devastation caused by a hurricane than by a quick, more powerful tornado, according to Patrick Marsh, science support chief at the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma.

• Daily Herald staff writers Russell Lissau and Katlyn Smith and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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