DeKalb area recovers in wake of storm

By Katrina Kelly

On what began as a calm Tuesday afternoon, last week’s electrical storm sent local utility workers, fire fighters and NIU groundskeepers to work quickly as it ripped a path through DeKalb and Sycamore.

The storm’s strongest winds uprooted trees, downed power lines and caused “a lot of work,” said Mario Fontana, Commonwealth Edison district manager. “It was a very, very severe storm.”

The NIU Weather Service recorded winds of between 22 and 30 mph as the storm hit at 2:30 p.m.

As the storm traveled a narrow path through DeKalb and Sycamore, wooded areas were hit hardest as heavy winds knocked tree limbs on top of power lines, he said. Fontana said Com Ed employees worked from 2:30 p.m. July 11—when the storm hit—until 11 p.m. July 12 to restore service to local residents.

Com Ed called on about 200 workers from Rockford, Freeport and Dixon to assist the 50 employees in the DeKalb headquarters, he said. The storm left some customers without power for 36 hours, but the bulk of the electrical problem was solved by that night, Fontana said.

Power was restored to all affected customers by noon Wednesday, Fontana said, and then Com Ed workers had to “clean up.”

Although Fontana hesitated to name a specific figure, he assessed the storm’s damage to be “hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

Assistant DeKalb Fire Chief Estevan Quesada said the storm caused a few crisis situations. Fallen power lines at the corner of First Street and Lincoln Highway trapped a man in his car until workers arrived to remove the electrical hazard.

The storm extinguished street lights and caused several alarms to malfunction, Quesada said. Wind damage to the roof of the Hauser-Ross Eye Institute in Sycamore kept firefighters “hard-pressed” to deal with other emergency situations, he said.

The need for additional manpower developed as rapidly as the storm and Quesada praised the department’s shift commanders and lieutenants for responding quickly.

NIU Grounds Foreman Tom Anderson said groundskeepers are still in the process of cleaning up trees affected by the storm’s high winds. About 15 willow trees were damaged or uprooted, he said.

Anderson said fallen trees did not block any major streets or pathways, and cleanup should continue until the end of this week. Several trees were affected near the East Lagoon, he said.

Trees were also damaged near the NIU Married Student Housing facilities on Annie Glidden Road, Anderson said.