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Storm damages Oregon, knocks out power to most of town

Brigette Peterson, Oregon, was chatting with her sister in the kitchen Monday night when part of an oak tree crashed through the ceiling.

A severe storm packing high winds, torrential rain, and small hail swept through town just before 9 p.m. bringing down trees and power lines and leaving most of the city without electricity for more than 12 hours.

The storm uprooted a massive oak tree behind Peterson's house at 410 N. Sixth St., and brought it crashing down on her grill and house.

About two feet of one of its branches protruded through the ceiling above her kitchen sink.
Peterson and her two children, ages 6 and 8, were in the kitchen when it happened along with her sister and niece and nephew.

"We were actually in that room when it happened," Peterson said Tuesday morning. "The sound was unbelievable. I've never heard anything like it. It sounded like every window in the house was shattering a once.

"And then we had water pouring into the house everywhere, from the light fixtures, the ceiling, everywhere," she said.

The main thing, she said, was that no one was hurt.

"I'm so thankful we were all fine, not a scratch," said Peterson, who is expecting a baby in November.

She called 911 for help and when the fire department arrived, firefighters told her the tree had landed on her outdoor grill, which was keeping it from coming down completely on the house.

Firefighters shut off the electricity and natural gas to the 160-year-old house, and Peterson and her family left to spend the night in Rockford.

Oregon Fire Chief Don Heller said trees and power lines were down throughout Oregon, with the most damage between Eighth and Tenth Streets.

He said the fire department answered 18 calls and stayed at the fire station until midnight after the storm had run its course.

Heller said he drove down Fourth Street near McDonald's to assess the storm as it was coming in, and when he tried to return a few minutes later the street was already blocked by a large tree.

ComEd spokesman Dave Gross said Oregon was the hardest hit community in the Dixon area, which includes parts of Ogle and Lee Counties.

"The damage is pretty widespread," he said. "Oregon has been one of our main focuses."

Numerous ComEd and contract crews were in Oregon all day Tuesday to remove limbs and branches from power lines and restore service.

ComEd's website showed more than 4,000 Ogle County customers without power early Tuesday.

Gross said Oregon-Nashua, Pine Rock, Pine Creek, Byron, and Grand Detour Townships were among the most affected townships in ComEd's Dixon area.

Oregon Street Superintendent Mike Bowers said he and his crew began putting up barricades Monday night, staying at it until midnight.

They were back on the job early Tuesday morning cutting up trees and clearing limbs from the streets. "This was a pretty bad storm," Bowers said.

At Oregon Super Valu, a 13 and one-half hour power outage left employees throwing away fresh meat and deli items.

"We lost our whole meat case and a lot of deli," said store owner Jim Kauffmann. "Fortunately the freezers were fine. It's tough to run a business without electricity."

A delivery truck that came early Tuesday morning from Champaign couldn't unload because of the outage.

At the White Pines Lodge, manager Beth Henderson was also throwing away spoiled food.
"It's a huge loss," she said Tuesday afternoon.

A storm Sunday evening left the restaurant and cabins without power until Monday afternoon. The lights came back on briefly Monday only to go out with that storm.

"We had no power for breakfast or lunch Monday," Henderson said. "We opened for supper and then at 8 last night the storm came through and took trees down all over the park. Trees were down at the entrance and people couldn't get in or out."

Still without power Tuesday afternoon, Henderson said she had just got a generator that would supply water to not only the restaurant, but also her overnight guests in the cabins.

"We have guests who are sticking it out without lights," she said. "We have water at least."

Editor's Note: Electrical power came back to our office, located at 121A S. Fourth Street, at 9:48 a.m. Tuesday, but the office was without Internet service the rest of the day, forcing two staff members to travel to the Sauk Valley Media office in Sterling to finish designing pages. As I was writing finishing this story at 4:50 p.m. and getting ready to depart for Sterling myself, our electricity again went out. I reported the outage to Commonwealth Edison and a recording said "the estimated restoration time is July 3, at 11 p.m.".

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