Wicked wind

Lisa Depies
An uprooted tree broke chunks of sidewalk along Oakwood Avenue in Geneseo.

A storm, featuring straight-line winds reaching up to 90 miles-per-hour ripped through Geneseo, Atkinson and Annawan around 6 a.m. July 21.

The storm left a path of destruction in its wake — trees were uprooted, grain bins dented, semi trucks flipped, trampolines deposited in trees and power lines downed.

“It’s been about 10 years since we last had a storm this bad,” said Geneseo police chief Tom Piotrowski.

The aftermath “was pretty hectic” said Piotrowski. His department spent the morning baracading streets deemed impassable by downed power lines or fallen tree branches.

“Our biggest concern was keeping people safe,” he said. “Until we could confirm whether or not the utility lines were live, we didn’t want people in the area.”

In total, Piotrowski estimates his department totally or partially blocked “several dozen” streets. “The hardest hit area was in the south and west parts of town,”?he said.

Storm damage knocked out power to many homes and businesses and led to a “very hectic day” for the city’s electric department, said Geneseo’s electric superintendent Lewis Opsal.

It took Geneseo electric crews “just over 25 hours” to restore power to all customers, said Opsal.

“We had lines down in a lot of places that were hard to get to. We did a lot of pole climbing,” he explained.

The Geneseo employees were joined by electric crews from Rochelle and Rock Falls, who offered mutual aid assistance.

“We had a total of eight trucks out (after the storm),” said Opsal.

The storm broke one power pole in Geneseo, but the majority of the damage was caused by fallen trees and branches.

“We sometimes catch flak from customers for trimming trees 12 or 15 feet back from power lines, but this is the reason we trim,” said Opsal. “If we didn’t trim, the aftermath would have been about 10 times worse.”

Though the early morning storm wrecked havoc in Henry County, Opsal said the nice weather that followed the storm made repairs easier for his crews.

“When we had the ice storm (this past winter), we’d be doing repairs and the ice would continually cause tree branches to break. Though it looks like there was more damage with this storm, the aftermath was easier to contend with,” he said.

For the next several weeks, Geneseo city employees will collect tree branches and accompanying debris and haul it to the city burn pile.

To assist with the clean up, public service superintendent John VanDeWoestyne asks residents to stack branches near the street curb or along the alleys.

“We ask that they try and stack the piles neatly,” he said. “It helps us a lot if it’s not in a big tangled mess.”

Because the current situation is considered an “emergency storm clean up,”?VanDeWoestyne said piles do not have to be bundled.

All storm debris collected in town will be taken to the city burn pile, located off Roos Hill Road, north of Geneseo.

“We have the gate open to the burn pile and it will remain open during daylight hours, seven days a week, for the next few weeks,” said VanDeWoestyne.

Residents who would like to take their own items to the burn pile may do so. Likewise, professional tree services, which normally are required to purchase a permit before dumping items at the burn pile, may take clean up items to the dump for free.

“We estimate that it will take two or three weeks to get the town completely clean. We just ask that people be patient. We’re getting around to everything as quickly as we can,” he said.

VanDeWoestyne said the July 21 storm was  “the worst storm we’ve had since June of 1998.”

However, despite the magnitude of the most recent storm, VanDeWoestyne said he was impressed with the response by Geneseo citizens.

“We appreciate that immediately after the storm passed, people were out all over the place pulling limbs out of the roadways. It’s amazing how people pitched in, and that really helps,” he said.

In addition to collecting debris cleared from private property, VanDeWoestyne said his crews will spend time cleaning damage done at city properties.

“We haven’t been able to fully assess the damage done at Oakwood Cemetery. We know we have a lot of trees or half trees down out there. It’s going to be a long, slow clean up because we can’t get our equipment in there as easily as we can other places,” he said.

As for the city’s parks, VanDeWoestyne said there was “nothing major” damaged there. “We had some limbs down at both the city park and Richmond Hill and we also lost a big pine tree at Richmond Hill, but nothing was substantial.”

For more information about clean up, visit the City of Geneseo’s Web site at

A trampoline is lodged in a tree in the front yard of Matt and Jessica Dwyer's home in rural Atkinson.