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Storm lashes county, does little to ease drought

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(H. Rick Bamman – hbamman@shawmedia.com)
“I was watching out the back window; I don’t see the pier, I don’t see the boat,” said boat owner Pete Mateljan, describing Wednesday night’s storm, as he watched Ben Reheeg (from left), James Moch and Brian Cuker of Captain Rod’s Boat Lift Service right the craft Thursday morning in Crystal Lake.

The Ryan family was watching the Chicago Cubs game at their Crystal Lake home Wednesday night when the severe thunderstorm warning scrolled across the bottom of the screen.

Flashes of lightning and the crashing sounds of thunder soon followed.

Pat Ryan gazed out the window of her Oak Court home that overlooks the city’s namesake lake and said she was more than surprised to see that her husband’s 18-foot catamaran had been lifted from its dock station and flipped in the water.

“We’ve had the boat break loose before during storms, but this is the first time something like this has ever happened before,” Ryan said. “We’re lucky it had hooked to the dock station or else it would have completely flipped over.”

The boat was one of many turned over by thunderstorms that ripped through the region Wednesday night – knocking out electricity and bringing down powers lines and trees throughout McHenry County, including the area near Main Beach in Crystal Lake.

The heaviest damage in Crystal Lake appeared to be near Lake Street and Country Club Road, Public Works Director Victor Ramirez said.

The high winds and heavy rains struck Main Beach and wrapped around the southeastern portion of the lake about 10 blocks into Lakewood.

“It was hit or miss around town,” Ramirez said. “We have our fair share of downed trees and power lines throughout the city, but the majority of damage is concentrated in that area.”

Portions of South Shore Drive near the lake were closed Thursday as crews worked to remove downed trees that damaged homes in that area.

According to the National Weather Service, many areas locally received more than an inch of rain in a short period of time. Harvard recorded 2.04 inches of rain. Marengo received 1.67 inches and Woodstock got 1.66 inches.

A weather spotter reported a 52 mph wind gust north of Marengo.

Wednesday’s rainfall was helpful, but doesn’t go far when it comes to making up for the local rainfall deficit, McHenry County Farm Bureau Manager Dan Volkers said.

How much it helps farmers depends on their soil and the maturity of their crops, he said.

Corn that has just started to tassel will benefit, as will soybeans. But at this point, the damage of drought is done, Volkers said, and the question is its extent.

The new U.S. Drought Monitor update released Thursday morning puts almost all of Illinois in severe drought or worse, except for part of northeastern Illinois, which is in “moderate” drought. Far southern Illinois is experiencing “severe” and “exceptional” drought.

The peak number of power outages across the region Wednesday night was 120,000, according to ComEd. The majority of those were in the western region and crews still were working Thursday to restore power to some areas.

The McHenry Township Fire Protection District responded to eight calls during the storm. That included two structure fires most likely caused by lightning strikes, five reports of downed power lines and one motor vehicle accident.

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