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Damage From Storm 'Unreal,' Far North Side Residents Tell Rahm

By Linze Rice | August 3, 2015 12:20pm
 Mayor Rahm Emanuel met with neighbors in the Rogers Park community Monday morning to assess the damage left in the area from Sunday's storm.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel met with neighbors in the Rogers Park community Monday morning to assess the damage left in the area from Sunday's storm.
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DNAinfo/Linze Rice

ROGERS PARK — Mayor Rahm Emanuel visited Rogers Park residents Monday to see firsthand the aftermath of Sunday night's unexpected storm that killed one person in a Chicago suburb and left thousands of Far North Side residents without power.

Emanuel addressed residents on Lunt Avenue, where crews used handsaws to take apart a tall, robust tree that'd fallen over during the storm.

"Nobody got hurt, but you can see there's a 50-year-old tree, look at the power of that storm," he said. " ... Look at what that ripped up. This is a very severe storm."

Emanuel said the damage "adversely affected" neighborhoods including Sauganash, Albany Park, Rogers Park, Edgewater, Edgebrook in the 49th, 39th and 41st Wards.

"Not that others did not get affected, but not as severe," Emanuel said.

Ald. Joe Moore (49th) said in an email to residents that the mayor reached out to Gov. Bruce Rauner to assist those with property damage financially.

"I will let you know of the Governor's response," Moore said.

A large, uprooted tree lays on its side as crews work to disassemble it. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]

Residents say the storm picked up right before 3 p.m. Sunday during an otherwise hot and sunny, clear-skied day. For about 10-20 minutes, huge wind gusts, golf ball-sized hail, rain and lightning crashed down upon the community.

The mayor said 39 pieces of heavy equipment, 14 semi-trucks and over 150 crew members had been deployed to respond to the 853 tree emergencies reported throughout the city.

He also said the Department of Transportation sent out 18 crews to fix light poles and traffic signals that weren't working, and the Office of Emergency Management and Communications has deployed members to assess damage done to public and private properties.

The mayor was accompanied by Streets and Sanitation Commissioner Charles Williams, who said city crews had been working to remove trees and assist neighbors since 5 a.m. Monday, after taking a break from working 9 p.m. to midnight Sunday.

He said he expected his crews to be out the remainder of the week cutting up  fallen trees and branches and taking them to another location where they'll be mulched and sent off to the water reclamation district to be used as renewable energy.

Crews sawing apart trees Monday morning. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]

The majority of reports he said his department has gotten so far include mainly downed branches blocking streets, lying on cars or even protruding through some residents' home windows.

Michael Walczak, who lives on Lunt, said he'd spent the better part of the day at EdgeFest in nearby Edgewater and returned home between 9-10 p.m. to find damage throughout his street.

He said he went to bed thinking his property had been fortunate enough to remain unscathed until Monday morning when he went to his car for work.

"I thought my car was fine at first, I didn't see it," he said. "Then when I got in this morning to go work, I thought, 'It's pretty breezy in here.'"

He said he looked back to see his entire rear windshield had been demolished by a fallen branch.

Resident Michael Walczak found his car's back window smashed in Monday morning from a fallen tree branch. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]

Neighbor Craig Gernhardt said the previous evening he and other neighbors had climbed the very tree near where Emanuel appeared.

He said workers from Devon Hardware volunteered their time and effort to help neighbors, including bringing out equipment to use.

Khan, who lives on Sheridan near Lunt, said she'd been walking her dog around 2:45 p.m. when hail came down, covering Sheridan.

Khan, who has lived in the area for 32 years, described the damage left in the brief storm's break as "eerie" and "unreal," as neighbors began emerging from shelter.

She said quickly the feel of panic turned into a plan of action and coordination among community members, each doing their part to assist each other in putting the street back in order.

"This is Rogers Park, we pull together," she said.

Khan and Laura Soncrant, owner of nearby The Growling Rabbit, said they both brought water and iced tea to residents and crews working Sunday night around 5:30 p.m., who were sawing and moving branches in the sweltering 90-degree heat.

City workers removing huge branches they sawed off from an uprooted tree. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]

Just after 9 p.m., Moore sent an email to residents saying that 6,500 residents lost power due to the "very strong storm." He said as of about 9 p.m., 4,400 community members were still waiting to have their power restored, which could take up to 24 hours.

On Monday afternoon, Moore said about 5,500 homes had regained power. The other 1,000 should have power just after 8 p.m. when transformers are restored, he said.

At least 75 trees had been uprooted in the Rogers Park neighborhood, causing the city's Bureau of Forestry to work "around the clock" in order to clean up debris, Moore said.

Moore also said 24th District Police Cmdr. Roberto Nieves would ask officers not to issue parking tickets for street cleaning violations until the storm damage is cleared.

Moore said residents may call 311 to report any damaged areas, or his office at 773-338-5796 for emergency tree clean-up.

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