Gov. JB Pritzker visits Apollo Theatre; Woodstock woman recounts near brush with disaster

Thousands in northern Illinois remained without power as of Saturday afternoon

After clocking out from work, Woodstock resident Theresa Best was headed to a night out with friends at Belvidere’s Apollo Theatre.

But before she could get there, and as a severe storm raced across northern Illinois on Friday night, the the concert venue’s roof collapsed. One person was killed 28 were injured, authorities said.

Woodstock, like much of McHenry County, saw only a handful of damaging wind reports, with some residents noting the impact was minimal.

But 15 miles west in Belvidere, the storm system wreaked havoc as it did across several states with hail, floods, damaging winds and a handful of tornadoes.

After getting out of work, Best headed to Belvidere to see if any of her friends needed help. Luckily, most of her friends did not even make it to the concert because of the weather. Those who did were uninjured.

In total, 260 were in the venue at the time of the collapse around 7:48 p.m., The Associated Press reported, with Belvidere Police Chief Shane Woody calling the scene “chaos, absolute chaos.”

“My heart is shattered for those that had to witness the tragedy,” Best said, praising those who worked to save others and calling them “heroes that were helping our their fellow metal heads.”

Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Sunday visited the Apollo Theatre and asked for a moment of silence to honor those who were hurt in the collapse.

“I’m really tremendously grateful to the residents here in Belvidere and to the concert goers and to the first responders who risked their lives on Friday night to pull people out of the rubble and the wreckage after the EF-1 tornado touched down here,” Pritzker said. “Lives were saved because of the quick work of the people who lived here and worked here to get that done.”

The strongest [storms] it looks like moved through Winnebago and Boone counties.

—  National Weather Service Meteorologist Zachary Yack

In Harvard – where a tornado warning was enacted – Samantha Dziewiontka said she saw it get dark quick, the power went out and wind pounded on the doors and windows when the storm arrived on Friday.

She said she could see bright lightning coming from the east. But when the storm arrived, it was gone after only a few minutes and brought little damage with it.

“I’m one of those who likes going outside to see what’s happening,” she said. “It was intense.”

The line of thunderstorms that made their way through the area were a series of smaller storms congealed together, meteorologist Zachary Yack said. That’s why some areas of the line saw more intensity than others.

“Some of those are just stronger,” Yack said. “The strongest it looks like moved through Winnebago and Boone counties.”

A few residents said they weren’t sure what kind of damage the storm would bring, both before and during its onslaught because of its intensity.

Sam Ali, a Woodstock resident who works at Harvard Tobacco and Cigars, said they closed down about three hours early because of the storm. The drive home “was horrible” with the wind and rain, he said. Despite the lack of damage, he thinks it was the right decision to close early.

“The car was dancing,” he said. “Trees were being shaken.”

Those who were affected by the storm in McHenry County were concentrated in Harvard and Marengo on the western side of the county, but beyond a few trees, runaway trampolines and tilted mailboxes, residents said they weren’t affected much.

The car was dancing. Trees were being shaken.

—  Woodstock resident Sam Ali on Friday night's storm

Mayors in Crystal Lake, McHenry and Woodstock on Saturday said their respective towns didn’t see much in the way of damage either.

“It was very quiet,” Crystal Lake Mayor Haig Haleblian said. “We had a little lightning show and a little bit of rain. Crystal Lake dodged a bullet with this one.”

In Marengo, Public Works Director Rob Lamz said the city was prepared for the worst, but didn’t end up needing to use emergency resources. He hasn’t received reports of problems throughout the city.

“I was on the road when it came through,” Lamz said. “It lasted for about five to 10 minutes. Lots of lightning. A very interesting storm to watch.”

Power loss was something much of McHenry County avoided as well, as outages were concentrated in Harvard and Marengo, with a few in McHenry on Friday night, according to ComEd. About two dozen customers were without power about 10:30 p.m. Friday.

Meanwhile, in counties to the west, such as Lee, Winnebago and La Salle counties, thousands were still without power on Saturday afternoon, according to the ComEd.

It last for about five to 10 minutes. Lots of lightning. A very interesting storm to watch.

—  Marengo Public Works Director Rob Lamz

The National Weather Service received about seven reports of wind damage in McHenry County, mostly in the northwestern part of the county, Yack said. While some areas saw winds up to 90 mph, it’s likely McHenry County saw winds between 50 and 75 mph.

A preliminary report from the National Weather Service shows wind activity happened in McHenry County, but no other severe weather. Just across the border into Wisconsin, a handful of tornadoes were observed.

It’s not known exactly how many tornadoes might have hit northern Illinois, as the weather service was working on Saturday to determine that, Yack said. The hope is to have finalized information in the next day or so.

“It was a very potent storm that rolled through,” Yack said. “Those who did not see much damage should be thankful. It worked out to about what we thought it would be.”