'We've been tornado'd': Burlington pair describe hearing storm overhead, the damage afterward

  • Greg Kmieciak walks through what is now an open-air living room Tuesday after a tornado ripped the roof of his Burlington house Monday. His wife, Laurie, was home and secure in the basement at the time the tornado hit.

    Greg Kmieciak walks through what is now an open-air living room Tuesday after a tornado ripped the roof of his Burlington house Monday. His wife, Laurie, was home and secure in the basement at the time the tornado hit. Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Greg and Laurie Kmieciak, center and right, along with their son Andy, left, talk with their insurance agent Tuesday after a tornado damaged their Burlington house Monday. A building inspector who visited Monday night said they may have to tear it down.

    Greg and Laurie Kmieciak, center and right, along with their son Andy, left, talk with their insurance agent Tuesday after a tornado damaged their Burlington house Monday. A building inspector who visited Monday night said they may have to tear it down. Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Friends Rick Brummel, left, and Frank Krueger use chain saws to clear the driveway of Greg and Laurie Kmieciak's Burlington house Tuesday morning. The house and most of the 18 mature trees on the property were damaged by a tornado Monday.

    Friends Rick Brummel, left, and Frank Krueger use chain saws to clear the driveway of Greg and Laurie Kmieciak's Burlington house Tuesday morning. The house and most of the 18 mature trees on the property were damaged by a tornado Monday. Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Greg and Laurie Kmieciak were out surveying the damage to their Burlington house Tuesday morning after a tornado ripped off a portion of their roof Monday. They're hoping to live in their camper while their house is repaired or rebuilt.

    Greg and Laurie Kmieciak were out surveying the damage to their Burlington house Tuesday morning after a tornado ripped off a portion of their roof Monday. They're hoping to live in their camper while their house is repaired or rebuilt. Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Insulation was strewed about the property after a tornado damaged a Burlington house Monday.

    Insulation was strewed about the property after a tornado damaged a Burlington house Monday. Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Andy Kmieciak walks past the damaged garage of his parents Burlington house Tuesday morning. The house was hit by a tornado Monday night.

    Andy Kmieciak walks past the damaged garage of his parents Burlington house Tuesday morning. The house was hit by a tornado Monday night. Rick West | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 8/11/2021 10:00 AM

Greg Kmieciak was about to head back to his Burlington house Monday after waiting out a storm in Monroe Center when his wife, Laurie, called. He could tell something was wrong.

"We've been tornado'd," she said.

 

"It was unbelievable," Greg Kmieciak said Tuesday morning as he surveyed the damage to the house the couple have shared for 25 years.

Part of the roof is gone. Most of the 18 or so very mature trees on the property were damaged to the point they'll have to be removed. A pole barn was damaged, and their camper was knocked off its blocks.

A tornado Monday ripped a large portion of the roof off Greg and Laurie Kmieciak's house in Burlington.
A tornado Monday ripped a large portion of the roof off Greg and Laurie Kmieciak's house in Burlington. - Rick West | Staff Photographer

The rear enclosed porch is a shambles, and they can't get a car out of the garage because the door is broken in half.

"It's a lot to take in," he said.

Their house on Plank Road in the far West suburb was one of several affected by two rounds of supercell thunderstorms that produced significant rainfall and at least six tornadoes across portions of Ogle, DeKalb, Kane and Lee counties, according to the National Weather Service.

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Scott Lincoln, of the weather service, said that number could still grow as crews are finishing collecting data and checking the area. More heavy storms that could produce another round of tornadoes were expected Tuesday evening.

Andy Kmieciak found the American flag that used to fly on the front of his parents house about 100 yards away in a field after Monday's tornado.
Andy Kmieciak found the American flag that used to fly on the front of his parents house about 100 yards away in a field after Monday's tornado. - Rick West | Staff Photographer

Lt. Mike Tiedt of the Burlington Fire Protection District said the Kmieciak house was the only call for tornado damage in Burlington to which they responded.

"Given the strength of the storms, it could have been a lot worse," he said.

Laurie Kmieciak said that after the scare Monday, reality was setting in Tuesday.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"I was actually doing better yesterday," she said. "Now it's starting to sink in."

Kmieciak was home Monday afternoon when she got a call from her son in Sycamore that the tornado sirens were going off around his house. She went out to her porch where it was still pretty calm and grabbed several potted plants to bring inside.

Andy Kmieciak surveys the damage to his parents' Burlington house Tuesday morning after a tornado ripped off a portion of the roof, torqued the garage pictured at right, and damaged almost all of the 18 or so mature trees in their yard.
Andy Kmieciak surveys the damage to his parents' Burlington house Tuesday morning after a tornado ripped off a portion of the roof, torqued the garage pictured at right, and damaged almost all of the 18 or so mature trees in their yard. - Rick West | Staff Photographer

The calm was literally just before the storm.

Suddenly it was a downpour with howling winds.

"I've never seen it like that before," Kmieciak said.

She headed down to the basement, and after a couple of minutes the power went out and she started hearing things blow around.

"Then I heard one big clunk, and I thought, 'Oh, that doesn't sound good,'" she said.

After being in the basement for about five minutes, she came back upstairs when she couldn't hear the wind blowing.

Greg and Laurie Kmieciak's Burlington house and almost all of their 18 mature trees were damaged during a tornado Monday.
Greg and Laurie Kmieciak's Burlington house and almost all of their 18 mature trees were damaged during a tornado Monday. - Rick West | Staff Photographer

"First thing I saw was daylight," she said.

A large portion of the roof that covered the front living room had been ripped off, and rain was pouring down into her house.

She and her husband are hoping to live in their camper trailer, once they get it righted, while they figure out their next step.

Kmieciak said a building inspector came by Monday night and said the house may have been racked off its foundation, and they may have to demolish it and start over.

"If we have to rebuild it, we'll rebuild it," she said. "What else are we going to do?"

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