February tornadoes rare, not unheard of, weather service says

At least 10 tornadoes touched down Tuesday, nearly as many as happened during month of February for last 50-plus years

Trees, signs and fences were damaged on the Waubonsee Community College campus in Sugar Grove on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024 following a reported tornado the night before.

From 1950 until 2023, 11 tornadoes occurred in the Chicago area during the month of February, according to the National Weather Service in Romeoville whose forecast area includes 18 counties in northeast Illinois and five in northwest Indiana.

On Tuesday evening, the bureau confirmed at least 10 tornadoes touched down in its region, including EF-1 tornadoes that struck Inverness, Mundelein, Geneva, Batavia and Sugar Grove; and lesser EF-0 tornadoes in Hoffman Estates, South Barrington, Elburn and Campton Hills.

Initial reports of 11 tornadoes incorrectly included one that originated in Davenport, Iowa.

“This event was the most tornadoes we’ve had in February at one time,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Zachary Yack.

On Thursday, the NWS released maps tracking the path of the tornadoes. Green lines show their path, green triangles indicate damage points and green circles represent damage from straight-line winds – strong, thunderstorm-generated winds that do not rotate.

A trapoline sits upside down in front of a home near East Sandwich Road in Hinckley Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024, after a tornado hit the area Tuesday night.

While February tornadoes aren’t unheard of – there were three last February – they are more likely to occur in the spring when milder conditions and moist air are more likely to give rise to them, Yack said. What’s more unusual is so many tornadoes occurring in a single February event.

More concerning from a meteorological perspective is that Tuesday’s storm demonstrates tornadoes can happen any time of the year, he said.

With that in mind, people should prepare for severe weather events” regardless of the time of year,” Yack added.

Two tornadoes hit Hoffman Estates, where officials say storm damage was concentrated on the northeast side of town.

A brief, EF-1 tornado touched down along Whispering Trails Drive on the north side of Hoffman Estates and headed northeast. Two residences had a significant loss of roofing material, according to the weather service’s damage survey. Other debris penetrated the wall of a house, ending up in its living room, the weather service reported.

Another tornado touched down in the area near Delta Drive and tracked northeast to Rosedale Lane before lifting as it reached I-90. The weather service reported snapped tree branches and downed power lines along Hassell Road. Some homes had damaged shingles, fascia and gutters.

Hoffman Estates sustained significant tree damage, said Village Manager Eric Palm. In response, public works employees have spent the last few days clearing roadways and sidewalks, he said. On Monday, they will begin collecting downed branches from residents.

“Public works employees are first responders like police and firefighters,” Palm said. “They did a wonderful job.”

Trees, signs and fences were damaged on the Waubonsee Community College campus in Sugar Grove on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024 following a reported tornado the night before.

The severe weather also caused a partial collapse of a Mundelein apartment building roof, authorities said.

Twenty-one units in the 32 W. Washington Blvd., apartment were left uninhabitable, displacing 59 people, Mundelein Fire Chief Bill Lark said, adding there was no other notable damage in town.

The Red Cross and Lake County Emergency Management Agency have established a temporary shelter where 16 people from four families are residing, he said.

“The biggest need is to find (the residents) new, permanent housing,” Lark said, adding that “for the foreseeable future” the building will be uninhabitable.

· Daily Herald staff writer Katlyn Smith contributed to this report.