KENOSHA, Wis. – A powerful storm system raced through the upper Midwest Thursday night, killing a Wisconsin man when a tree collapsed onto his motorcycle, pelting Chicago skyscrapers with golf ball-sized hail and packing winds so strong they spun a grounded military cargo plane.
Several injuries were reported in Kenosha, Wis., where winds between 70 and 80 mph downed or damaged hundreds of trees and knocked out power to some 22,000 homes and businesses by early Friday, authorities said.
The 31-year-old man who died was riding his motorcycle on a local road at 8:12 p.m. CDT when he was struck by the tree, according to a news release from the Kenosha County Sheriff's Department. He was later pronounced dead at a hospital.
Two other residents were injured when they touched live electrical wires, and a woman was treated for a broken hip after she was struck by debris from a shed, authorities said.
"We are continuing to assess the damage in the city," Kenosha Mayor Keith Bosman. "It may take several days to clean-up debris."
The storm raced down through Lake Michigan coastal communities, ducking further inland before reaching the Windy City and losing strength once it moved into Indiana, said David Beachler, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Chicago. He said a gauge on the beach in Waukegan Harbor, a Chicago suburb about 10 miles south of the Wisconsin border, registered a hurricane-strength wind gust of 94 mph.
David Mann, a manager at Batten International Airport in Racine, Wis., said a wind gauge there registered a gust of 82 mph and that the storm caused a C130 military plane on display to pivot 45-50 degrees.
As the storm moved southward into Chicago, it dumped heavy rain and hail the size of golf balls and even baseballs, said Casey Sullivan, a weather service meteorologist.
Lake County Emergency Management Agency coordinator Kent McKenzie said the storm felled trees into buildings and power lines, and that there were several reports of trees damaging recreational vehicles camped at Illinois Beach State Park, north of Waukegan. Emergency workers freed several people trapped by a tree in a vehicle at the park, but no one was hurt, McKenzie said.
It was hot in the area on Thursday, and temperatures were expected to reach the upper 90s on Friday.