MORRIS – The two-punch storm that pummeled Grundy County on Monday night left a trail of debris, electrical fires and power outages in its wake.
The night's first thunderstorm rolled into the area about 7 p.m. The second, more destructive storm front struck Morris at 9:48 p.m. Monday, bringing with it 80 to 90 mph winds, according to the National Weather Service. No major injuries were reported in Grundy County from the storms.
Within minutes of the second storm hitting, about 90 percent of Morris – and much of Grundy County – was without power, prompting the Morris Hospital & Healthcare Centers to be put on bypass until 7 a.m. Tuesday, which meant ambulance calls were rerouted elsewhere.
State Rep. John Anthony, R-Plainfield, said ComEd representatives told him teams had been out assessing the damaged areas all day Tuesday and had executed a plan to have the majority of the residential power on in Morris and the surrounding areas by 11 p.m. Tuesday.
According to the NWS, Morris received the most rainfall in Grundy County with 1.94 inches, while Coal City received 1.61 inches, Channahon 1.46 inches and Minooka 1.36 inches. In Morris, more than 200 trees were uprooted, several power lines were down and at least one structure – a warehouse north of town – was significantly damaged.
Emergency crews reported no injuries, but two residents were briefly trapped inside their homes Monday night after fallen trees blocked all exits, Morris Fire Protection & Ambulance District Chief Tracey Steffes said at a news conference Tuesday morning.
An investigation Tuesday by a National Weather Service team ruled out the possibility of a tornado touchdown in Morris, unlike Plainfield and Earlville, which had EF-1 tornadoes confirmed. In its report, the weather service noted the "tremendous" damage in Morris was due to straight-line winds, which can cause tornado-like destruction.
"When you get up to those speeds, straight-line winds can be just as damaging as a tornado," NWS meteorologist Bill Nelson said Tuesday.
A significant portion of Morris was still without power Tuesday evening, including the Morris Water Treatment Plant and water wells, posing a legitimate threat to the city's water supply.
After the water wells and plant lost power Monday, the city had about 24 hours worth of water in reserves and therefore was working to obtain generators for its wells.
Morris secured power generators for two of the city's wells, and by Tuesday evening, one of the two wells was operational with a generator. Additionally, the second well was in the process of being connected to a generator, Steffes said.
Once both are up and running, which was expected by Tuesday night, the two wells will pump about 2 million gallons into the water supply system over the course of 24 hours and residents will no longer have to worry about a water shortage, Morris Mayor Richard Kopczick said.
A water shortage was a concern because it could have caused the evacuation of local health care facilities, Morris Police Chief Brent Dite said.
Throughout Tuesday, residents were encouraged to conserve water until the wells could be powered. Morris was one of the hardest-hit by Monday's storm, according to the NWS.
The city continues to be under a flood advisory until July 4 as the Illinois River near Morris is predicted to reach 16 feet or higher by Wednesday, according to NWS.
The Morris fire department responded to more than 100 emergency calls in less than 24 hours after the storm hit, which is about 10 times the department's regular call volume, Steffes said. Other Grundy communities hit hard too.
Local officials from Coal City, Diamond and Minooka said they had debris and power outages as well, but none faced damage as extensive as Morris.
Diamond's water plant was also without power, but Mayor Terry Kernc said the village had back-up generators keeping all sewage and water infrastructure working normally until power is restored. "Residents do not need to be concerned," Kernc said. "Our residents are in good hands."
The Grundy County Courthouse was running on a generator as well, but several of the county's computers and record systems were offline Tuesday, making daily operations difficult, Sheriff Kevin Callahan said.
Steffes urged residents to continue using caution as many of the wires on the ground will become live as power is restored and loose tree limbs will likely continue falling throughout the next few days. "Some of these lines that are on the ground will become re-energized," Steffes said. "Watch you step and be careful of your surroundings."
RAINFALL TOTALS IN GRUNDY COUNTY AREA FROM MONDAY'S STORMS • Wilmington: 2.02 inches • Dwight: 2 inches • Morris: 1.94 inches • Coal City: 1.61 inches • Channahon: 1.46 inches • Minooka: 1.36 inches Source: National Weather Service STAY SAFE If your power is out: • Turn off all appliances, including furnace, water heater and water pump • Leave a lamp on to know when power is restored • People on medical support equipment are urged to evacuate to a comfortable and safe place • Keep freezer and refrigerator doors closed and open only when necessary • Keep some coolers handy to store food in case of a prolonged outage • Keep track of temperatures of food • Dairy, meat, poultry, fish and eggs above 40 degrees Fahrenheit should be discarded • Never taste food to determine its safety Source: ComEd and the Will County Health Department