HARVARD – Dawn Petersen built an equipment storage barn near Harvard last summer.
But less than a year later, the barn was destroyed by powerful winds from a storm Wednesday night that also created a tornado.
“We just can’t believe it. It’s just so surreal,” Petersen said.
Petersen wasn’t at the property when the storm hit, but Faith Lois, who is dating Petersen’s son, Gregg, was.
“I was asleep, and I woke up to my phone that said there was a tornado warning,” Lois said. “So I went downstairs, went to turn the TV on to see what the news said, and the power went out. Later, I found out the barn was gone.”
Although a house next to the barn still was standing, a nearby tree was ripped out of the ground, and the storage barn was torn apart, with debris everywhere and metal wrapped around a pole yards away.
“This is just devastating to come here and find this,” Petersen said. “ ... But I’m glad no one was hurt.”
Not far away, a nearby property lost five trees and had shed damage.
“It came on real fast with really strong winds, so I headed toward the basement,” Harvard resident Brian Christ said.
Crews spent Thursday cleaning up downed trees, wires and debris from houses after severe thunderstorms and a reported tornado Wednesday night.
A line of severe thunderstorms moved across northern Illinois late Wednesday evening into early Thursday. The storms spawned damaging winds and hail up to size of golf balls, according to the National Weather Service. About 10:21 p.m., an EF1 tornado – with a moderate threat level and estimated wind peaks at 95 mph – also touched down about 2 miles south of Poplar Grove and dissipated about 3 miles northwest of Harvard.
According to damage survey results, the tornado struck through the heart of Capron in Boone County.
Just outside of McHenry County, Capron resident Ken Hawes lost part of the roof of his house to Wednesday’s storm and described the sound as a “locomotive train” coming through his home.
“I’ve lived in this area about all my life and never heard before what I heard last night,” he said.
Hawes said he didn’t hear any sirens go off when alerts came over his phone.
“The next step is we’re waiting for insurance to come,” Hawes said. “... But I’ll tell you, if they say it’s right in the town next to you, you better head to the basement right away or it may be right on top of you.”
The storm also destroyed his garage.
About 20 miles east, a Harvard-area farm called Rusted Roost Farm also was in Wednesday’s storm path.
“I went outside on the porch, and it was nice and breezy; then, as it got later, around 10:30 p.m., all of a sudden it got windier,” said Lucas Lonchar, who leases the property.
Lonchar said he started looking at weather reports on Facebook.
“All of a sudden my phone goes off and I’m getting alerts on my phone,” Lonchar said.
Lonchar said it then got oddly quiet, and he rushed to the basement with his two dogs, Booner and Mojo.
While Lonchar was there, he said the house, which is from the early 1900s, was shaking with the lights flashing on and off.
“They say [a tornado] sounds like a freight train is coming through your house, and that’s exactly how to describe it,” Lonchar said.
When Lonchar went upstairs, he expected his house to be gone, but was thankful to see it still standing. A tree next to the house was destroyed and fell in the opposite direction of the residence.
“This could have gone a whole different way,” Lonchar said. “And I really do think God protected me because that tree should have gone into the house with me in it.”
Along with the tree being destroyed, the house sustained some water damage in his bedroom, the farm sign was ripped out of the ground, and so were two old wooden wagon wheels that Lonchar had partially buried.
The farm has seven goats. None of the animals were injured.
Storms were scattered around the Midwest on Wednesday. High winds killed a trucker Wednesday in Iowa. This was the second wave of storms, as several tornadoes were reported Tuesday in the U.S. No one was reported injured from the Capron tornado Wednesday night, according to survey results.