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March 27, 1991 TORNADO
Lemont, Cook County, Illinois

West McCarthy St Lemont Tornado 1991
Looking West 704 McCarthy Street

Above April 13, 2006
Above April 13, 2006
Map

From Lemont 125th Anniversary Book (See Books for ordering info)

On March 27, 1991, Lemont was hit with a twister through the town in a selective manner, demolishing one home, not touching the other. The tornado destroyed 15 homes and damaged 180 more. First downing a 100 ft. microwave relay tower at 127th St. west of town, the tornado erratically veered in a northwest path through residential Peiffer, Warner, State and the Blue Hill (neighborhood around St. Cyril & Methodist Church) area. It then rammed the McCarthy Pointe subdivision off of McCarthy Road, then traumatized Franciscan Village on Main St. (near Walker Road) and continued on Main Street, it badly damaged the Powell Duffryn Terminal. Still following a northeast pattern, it tore the roof off of St. James Church in Sag before dissipating.

Lives were saved by the quick thinking of Police Sgt. Tom Hess. A department policy is to station an officer at the village’s highest point on 127th St.

Hess got the surprise of his life when he saw the tornado coming right toward him in his rear view mirror. He yelled into his radio,” I’m getting hit by a tornado - sound the sirens.” The tornado had his squad car up on two wheels, pushing it across the road and flipping it over. Hess's early warning provided the cushion that helped people get to safety. He was awarded the Silver Cross for bravery and inducted into the Policemen Hall of Fame for his heroic deed. He was included in the Hall of Fame's trading cards recognizing outstanding officers for the year. He was later featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show that centered on tornado safety. Many agencies, organizations, businesses and private individuals pitched into help. The State ESDA was very impressed with the village's disaster readiness. The local Christian Clergy Association was assigned the task of distributing funds to victims of the tornado.

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