FORRESTON – Monday’s storm hit so fast that Mike Boomgarden didn’t even have time to grab his raincoat.
The Forreston Police chief and about 30 other first responders jumped into action when a derecho – an intense and fast-moving windstorm-thunderstorm combo – hit the area, ravaging the Candlelight mobile home park and sending five residents to the hospital.
There were no fatalities. The village sustained tree and wire damage to 48 blocks, while 13 blocks sustained structural damage.
"It's basically total devastation,” Forreston Fire Department Chief Mark Daws said. “It's totally gone. There were a few houses that got damaged through there. As far as the trailer park, they're all basically gone. I've never seen anything like this. I've been on the fire district for 39 years. This is the worst I've seen."
Village President Mark Metzger made a disaster declaration Monday afternoon and said a shelter center had been established at the Leaf River Valley complex for affected residents. The village estimates 50-100 residents have been displaced or “affected the most.”
The storm, with winds greater than 100 mph, struck the county around 2:15 p.m. Local law enforcement shut down all roads to Forreston afterward to give first responders space.
ComEd and Nicor still were working Monday night to restore power and gas to the community. At one time, more than 8,000 county residents were without power.
"We had the most significant damage here in Forreston,” Ogle County Sheriff Brian VanVickle said. “But we did sustain damage all the way from Forreston to rural Rochelle. It went the 42 miles across the county, and the wind did a significant amount of damage to trees and power lines everywhere else.”
The Sheriff’s Office deployed extra deputies to patrol and help out in Forreston. Deputies still were responding to blocked roads and downed power lines hours after the storm.
Immediately following the storm, a search was done of the mobile home park to account for its residents.
"Pretty much everyone was out,” Daws said. “There were a few unaccounted for, but they came later. We are going to return and do a secondary search again. Right now we think we have everyone accounted for, but we'll be doing another one."
Daws said the severe storm warning came through his department’s paging system and there was awareness ahead of time.
Candlelight resident Crisheena Seurtz came home to check on her cats and the storm hit 5 minutes later. Her friend Curtis Jakobs directed her to get into the bathroom and saw a tree come down by their trailer.
“Then after that happened, he said we needed to help people,” Seurtz said. “My ex lives down the road and we had to dig them out of the trailer. They were OK. We've found two of our three cats."
Amy Houston manages the BP gas station on state Route 26 in Forreston near the mobile home park. The winds tore the heating and cooling unit off the roof, which left a hole.There was a gas leak as well.
Houston’s car was damaged when the wind blew a road closed sign, and the 300-pound man who was holding it, into her car.
“It got dark and really windy and the trees were flying this way and things hit my vehicle,” she said. “It was really fast. But the wind lasted for a while. Our home wasn't affected. Just garbage cans blown over.“
The Forreston Township building also sustained heavy damage and several empty semi-trailers were pushed into a corner lot; one was pushed on its side.
The east wall of a cement block building collapsed and fell on a nearby Moring Disposal semi-tractor.
The buzz of chainsaws could be heard all through town late afternoon as residents started removing fallen trees and branches.