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Woman Who Survived Tornado: ‘It’s Beyond Your Imagination’

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Updated 06/13/13 – 4:30 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) – Crews were working to restore power to thousands of homes and businesses Thursday morning, and National Weather Service investigators were working to confirm multiple reports of possible tornadoes, after powerful storms swept through the Chicago area on Wednesday.

The National Weather Service said Thursday that an EF-0 tornado, with winds around 85 mph, hit Manteno on Wednesday.

Chicago and much of the surrounding area were spared the brunt of the storm, as cool air from the lake helped prevent more severe storms from forming.

But areas far south and west of the city, as well as parts of northwest Indiana, still saw major damage from the storm.

Residents in the Chicago area and northwest Indiana were starting to clean up from the series of storms early Thursday, after the rain, hail and winds left behind damage all across the region.

Winds of up to 60 mph and hail as large as baseballs were reported in some areas, while there were several reports of funnel clouds.

The National Weather Service was out in the field on Thursday investigating multiple reports of tornadoes, including in Paw Paw and Somonauk in the far western suburbs, and in southwest suburban Yorkville.

The storm in Paw Paw was not determined to be a tornado but did pack powerful straight-line winds, CBS 2’s Chris Martinez reports.

The NWS also determined an EF-1 tornado hit Shabbona State Park–about 30 minutes south of DeKalb–on Wednesday afternoon, causing severe tree damage.

Manteno resident Alanna Smith’s horse barn was completely leveled in the storm, and she said she spotted a tornado just before it hit.

Smith said she was pointing out a funnel cloud to her son when the house was hit.

“Boom, it hit that corner right there, and the whole house just rocked,” she said. “I don’t know how it didn’t suck us off of there, or at least knock us off of there, because you felt the whole house rock.”

Smith and her 18-year-old son ran into the basement for shelter after the storm hit. Smith said it’s a miracle no one in her family was hurt.

“It’s been a nightmare. We were out on the porch, we were watching funnel cloud form over to the south, and didn’t even hear the other one coming, and it hit the side of the house,” she said. “We turned and ran for the basement, and we could hear a lot of commotion going on outside, but there was nothing that we could do.”

Two investigators from the National Weather Service were at the barn Thursday morning.

“Just to think that something saved us,” Smith said. “How can you be standing outside when a tornado hits your property and survive that? How? It’s beyond your imagination.”

Ten minutes before spotting the funnel cloud, Smith and her son were inside the barn, feeding their horses.

The barn was flattened by the storm, leaving several horses trapped under debris.

“You could hear them screaming for help,” she said. “It’s just the most blood-curdling, horrific sound you could hear an animal make”

Ten horses were inside the barn. Six became trapped under the wood, and had to be rescued by firefighters and neighbors.

One horse died, and a couple other horses were injured. The injured horses were being treated at a relative’s home, while the animals that were unhurt were being kept in a pasture near Smith’s home.

Across town, a church was completely knocked down as well.

Officials believe the path of the tornado was three miles long.

Meantime, winds toppled several trees and large branches near Crown Point, Ind., leaving streets and yards littered with debris at the Lakes of the Four Seasons subdivision in the small town of Winfield.

Several cars were crushed underneath fallen trees and branches.

WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser reports enormous oak trees – more than 100 years old – were snapped about 15 feet up, and downed trees covered at least one home in the subdivision, damaging the house and car.

Meantime, the winds tore off the roof of one home as a family of four took shelter in their basement.

Insulation was left scattered all over the driveway after the Tanniehill family emerged from their basement. Luckily, no one was hurt. They ended up spending the night at a hotel.

“It just sounded like somebody was just pulling tin off the house, or something, just pulling roof off,” Sherron Tanniehill said. “If we were still upstairs, just like regular, God knows what could have happened.”

Neighbor James Tudor said he saw a tree take out the Tanniehill’s shed before he heard another tree cracked, and then he later saw their entire roof had been torn off.

There have been no reports of major injuries or fatalities from the storms.

Even before the storms moved in, several events on Wednesday night were postponed or cancelled due to the weather. The Chicago White Sox game against the Toronto Blue Jays was postponed, a concert at Millennium Park was cancelled, and several schools and universities ended their days early so students, teachers and staff could get home before the storms hit.

Airlines cancelled more than 360 flights at O’Hare International Airport and another 55 at Midway International Airport. Metra also halted several train lines for part of the afternoon on Wednesday as high winds blew through.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS Radio and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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