Thursday, August 23, 2007

Worst Thunderstorm Ever!


That's the scariest storm I've been through in a long time. Especially here, in my home near Lake Michigan on the north side of Chicago. First time I've ever been scared enough to move to the hallway that runs through the center of the apartment, away from all the windows and outside walls. I even took a chair with me.

This building, built in 1902, is a rock, and I'm on the first floor. I wasn't worried about it blowing down or anything like that. But I could see enough flying debris to worry about something smashing into a window.

There's a tree out back, old, trunk about two feet in diameter.

At least it was there. Now it's on its side, in the driveway, snapped off at its base. When I saw that huge tree go down, that's when I quickly moved away from the window.

The Waterford, a high-rise about two blocks north of here, lost its entire roof. Half of it landed on the smaller building next door. The other half landed on Lake Shore Drive, on top of an unlucky SUV. The woman whose SUV was under the tree in my back yard got lucky. Only the very top of it landed on her car and did no damage.

My building, called The Pattington, has a tile roof, which now has many fewer tiles on it than it did. The grounds around the building are littered with them, also chunks of limestone, brick and tin from about five chimneys that blew off.

All over the neighborhood and no doubt all over the region, lots of trees lost big branches and many trees, big ones like the one behind me, went down completely; some snapped in two, some pulled out by their roots. (The soil here, below a couple inches of top soil, is all sand.) Several buildings lost chunks of roofs.

Park Place, a high-rise across from us on the south side of Irving Park Road, had a temporary "now leasing" sign at the corner of Irving and Pine Grove. The sign was half-inch masonite, about 3' x 5', screwed to three steel poles. The poles are still there but the sign broke in half and sailed about 30 feet, one half staying on the south side of Irving, the other half coming to rest on the north side.

The storm came up fast, in the middle of the afternoon. My desk faces away from the window, but I suddenly could hear the wind and noticed it had gotten almost dark. Then the power went out. It was out for five hours.

I knew I had candles and flashlights, and was proud of myself for being able to quickly locate an old, all-analog, battery-powered radio I have. I probably haven't used it in ten years or more, but it performed perfectly. I knew from the radio that more weather was on its way and, sure enough, about 7:30 PM it started up again, not quite as ferocious, but with almost continuous lightening flashes. The power came back on about 8:15 PM.

It seems to have settled down somewhat, but only temporarily according to the Weather Service. It may, they say, keep going like this, on and off, until Saturday.

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