A house on Seventh Circle in Marengo exploded about 5 a.m. Sunday, completely leveling the house next door and causing four homes to catch fire. Marengo officials estimate eight to 10 neighboring homes were left uninhabitable, and debris littered the neighborhood.
“It looks like a war zone down there, it really does,” Marengo resident Mike Barry said. “It’s very serious.”
Barry said things had calmed down on his side of the neighborhood, on the 400 block of 7th Avenue about 3 p.m. Sunday afternoon. A garage window blew out on the east side of his property, but other than that, the damage to his home was minor, he said.
“We were really very fortunate,” he said.
Barry’s brother, Bill Barry, lives about 100 yards away from the house that exploded, but a giant maple tree in his neighbor’s corner lot shielded his house from damage. He said that the town has rallied together in the face of the disaster.
“When I was standing out there at 5 a.m. when everybody was out there in their pajamas, everyone was checking on each other,” he said. “Asking ‘Are you OK,’ ‘Is there damage to your home,’ ‘Do you need help?’”
Throughout the day, local businesses offered assistance as well. Pointers Saloon in downtown Marengo offered $500 gift cards to displaced residents and $250 to those without power. ComEd said 136 customers were affected by the incident.
Bill Barry said he had been told it could be three days before power is restored in the neighborhood. Gas service has been restored, he said.
Joe’s Place offered freezer space for those who needed to store food, Stone Bakers Pizza brought pizzas down to the high school, which the superintendent opened up to victims as a pet-friendly cooling and American Red Cross station.
Joe Woit, with the American Red Cross, said donations of “basically everything” except toiletries were needed.
“Some people don’t have shoes and some people don’t even have their wallets because it happened so fast and was so destructive,” Woit said. “A lot of them have insurance, so their insurance is going to kick in, but it’s really for the next three days until that all gets rectified.”
The Red Cross had processed more than 40 families as of Sunday afternoon and waited on inspectors to determine how many could return home before the organization could determine a housing plan.
He added that dealing with more of the aftermath would be a waiting game, as well.
“I was just talking to someone and his insurance agent has many homes to do because they all have the same insurance,” he said “So will it get done in one hour? Five? Twelve? they don’t know. It’s a little bit early.”