Storm tears roof off three-story apartment building in Bellwood

CHICAGO (CBS) — Dozens of people in west suburban Bellwood were forced to seek shelter elsewhere, after a powerful thunderstorm ripped the roof right off their apartment building Monday evening.

Strong winds sent lots of people in the Chicago area to seek shelter Monday afternoon and evening, but people in a three-story apartment building in the 600 block of South 24th Avenue in Bellwood could not find refuge in their own home.

Thirty families were displaced and had to stay at Village Hall overnight. The Red Cross is providing assistance to the families who were left homeless.

“The lights started flickering. It sounded like the lightning. I heard a big boom,” said Sonya Smith.

“When I looked out the window, I could see the air aggressively pushing, and then that was when I heard the first thunderclap, or boom, or whatever it was that caused the roof to fall in,” Isaiah Griffith said.

A woman who lives on the top floor, and asked to remain anonymous, said when the roof caved in, the wood and heavy shingles came crashing right into her kitchen, trapping her underneath the table.

She screamed for help, but the wind and rain were too fierce, and she was forced to free herself.

She and everyone else in that building is now temporarily homeless.

Smith described the horror of seeing her building’s roof being ripped off within minutes of the tornado sirens going off in Bellwood.

“We all came out of our apartments. Everybody was nervous and scared. We don’t know what was going on. We all went to the basement to make sure that we were safe, and called 911,” she said.

Once the storm passed, the destruction was evident, not at that apartment building, but down the street.

“I didn’t know anything had came down until I came out my door, and when I came out the door, I saw Marshall’s house, the building on the corner, the girl’s car right there, and my car too,” one woman said.

Several large tree limbs fell onto cars, and a massive tree fell onto another home’s roof and front porch, the impact shaking the home’s foundation.

“The whole house shook, and I came out and saw that,” one man said. “It was lucky it didn’t go through [the wall], because it’s really close to those windows, and they were sitting down there on the couch.”

Back at the apartment building, residents grabbed whatever they could, and walked away with bags of clothing and other salvageable possessions.

Despite what they experienced, everyone walked away unhurt.

“This is unbelievable, but I’m grateful. I’m so grateful,” Smith said.