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DeMotte cleans up after storm’s destruction

AustMarlett  Craig Papenfus with DeMotte Street Department use chainsaw break down tree blocking AzaleStreet. | Carrie Napoleon~for Sun-Times Media

Austin Marlett and Craig Papenfus, with the DeMotte Street Department, use a chainsaw to break down a tree blocking Azalea Street. | Carrie Napoleon~for Sun-Times Media

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Updated: August 3, 2014 6:24AM



Residents in south Lake and north Jasper counties were busy cleaning up downed trees and assessing property damage after Monday’s storm cut a west-to-east path through the area.

“I’ve been here 25 years. This is the first time I got hit like this,” said Bob Mader, who lives in the 20000 block of Chase Street in unincorporated Lake County.

Mader and a crew of family and friends were working to clear the debris from the more than 15 trees toppled by the storm.

Mader said he was watching the lightning strike some of his trees. The wind toppled the others. Broken and uprooted large old growth oak, hickory and other hardwood trees covered the property. Two blue spruce he planted when he first moved into the home were flattened. Mader was taking the damage in stride, though. None landed on the house or other structures and nobody was hurt.

“I still got a lot of trees. I also got a lot of sun shining where it never shined before,” he said.

Damage could be seen throughout the storm’s path in south Lake County. Telephone poles were snapped and a barn torn apart by the wind in the 19500 block of Colfax Street.

In Schneider, considerable damage was left in the wake of the storm.

Richard Ludlow, town council president said uprooted trees blocked five streets, damaged at least three houses and crushed a couple cars.

“Two out of three ways in and out of town were blocked by trees,” Ludlow said.

The entire town is without power. NIPSCO has not yet been able to say when it may be restored, he said. The town’s water and sewer operations have switched over to generator power and will continue to operate until electricity to the town is restored.

The town hall is open, Ludlow said, but the town’s phones are down. Cable service to the town also is out.

A storm survey team has been dispatched to the area to determine whether the storms that ripped through the area were tornadoes or straight line winds, said Gino Izzi, meteorologist with the National Weather Service Chicago in Romeoville, Illinois.

“We saw some really impressive wind signatures plus or minus 10 miles of the Kankakee River,” Izzy said.

One school weather station in Lowell measured wind gusts at 86 miles per hour. Izzy said he expects a determination to be made later today.

Jeff Powers, street superintendent for DeMotte, said downed trees and power lines forced the closure of 20 streets. Powers and a crew were at the intersection of 9th and Azalea streets clearing the debris from a large tree out of the street.

“We’re just trying to get them passable,” Powers said. Town crews and a couple outside contracting crews hired by the town were out all day working to clear the streets

Across the street, Patty Wetselaar was trying to clean up the loose branches from around the large walnut tree that was knocked over in her front yard. The neighborhood children were running up and down the tree and playing in its branches.

“This is the fun memories party,” Wetselaar laughed while the kids called for her attention. The tree missed her house and garage on its way down. Wetselaar said its loss is bittersweet.

“It’s kind of like an old friend and in October we’re enemies,” she said, adding she will not miss cleaning up the walnuts every fall.

Mike Shuter was in his home in the 500 block of Halleck Street when the storm ripped through DeMotte uprooting trees and knocking down power lines.

“It sounded like a train,” Shuter said as he cleaned up downed trees from the yard Tuesday. Shuter said he was sleeping at the time, around 11:30 p.m., when the noise woke him. When he went upstairs he could see the door moving back and forth because of the wind. The storm knocked down a couple trees in the yard, one of them landing on the house and causing damage.

The storm also ripped out the home’s electricity and natural gas connections.

“We had to be evacuated,” he said.

His friend Matt Hyatt was helping remove branches and debris. Hyatt, who lives in the 9500 West block of 1200 N, said about a dozen trees were knocked down on his family’s property. He, too, was home when the storm struck.

“It was crazy. It was nuts,” he said. “I looked over and saw a tree uproot. It was nuts.”



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