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Severe Storms Bring Flooding, Damage From Hail And Lightning

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Updated 05/21/14 – 12:50 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) – It’s bound to be a busy morning at auto shops across the Chicago area, in the wake of powerful storms that brought large, damaging hail to the city and suburbs.

Hail stones as large as golf balls fell in some areas, and the heavy rain also caused flooding. Hail of nearly 3 inches was reported in the city of Rochelle in north central Illinois. Stones of up to 2 inches were reported in Tinley Park, Homewood, Palos Park, Lansing, Oak Forest and several other suburbs.

Standing water flooded out streets in southwest suburban Hazel Crest, near 175th and Ashland, and a number of cars got stuck in the water. Flooding also left a viaduct impassable in southwest suburban Crestwood, at 159th and Cicero.

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CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli reports some of the worst storm damage as reported in southwest suburban Oak Forest, where hail pummeled dents into many cars, and lightning started a fire at an apartment building.

The storm was packing winds of up to 60 mph and lots of lightning when it blew through the Oak Forest area around 9:30 p.m. One lightning bolt apparently started a fire that forced officials to evacuate an apartment building on the 15700 block of Peggy Lane.

“It was almost like a huge shotgun, and it hit the side of the building, and then it just went up in smoke,” said Sama Zatar, one of the residents evacuated from the building.

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lightning damage Severe Storms Bring Flooding, Damage From Hail And Lightning
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Diane Gedrimas, who lives across the street, called 911 after she saw the lightning hit the building.

“A big spark like a short flame kicked off, and then went out right away,” she said.

Within minutes, despite a steady rain, the building was on fire.

“I ran over and just started hitting all the buzzers, getting everybody out of the building,” Gedrimas said.

Firefighters on their way to the scene had to stop and rescue a woman trapped in her car under a flooded-out viaduct.

“On the way here, we actually had to stop and get somebody out of their car. They were trapped in their car, underneath a viaduct in water. We got them out. By the time we responded here, there was fire coming from the roof,” Oak Forest firefighter Gary Kasper said.

Zatar was home with her three young boys when a neighbor knocked on her door and begged her to help save her six young children.

“She handed me one of her twin babies, which was like 2 months old, and so I grabbed one of the babies. Her daughter grabbed the other baby twin, and then I went inside and grabbed all three of my kids, and then we all went downstairs,” she said.

Zatar said it’s clear, looking at the crib surrounded by debris and the extensive damage to the 12-unit building, that things could have been much worse.

“It was a close call,” she said.

After she returned to her condo to save what she could, Zatar said she felt fortunate, despite being left homeless.

“We’re just happy that nobody was hurt,” Zatar said.

The roof sustained heavy damage, and the top floors of the building likely will remain empty for weeks before residents are allowed back inside.

The ceiling of a condo on the top floor of the building was almost gone after the fire. Insulation littered a bed inside.

Two houses in Naperville also were struck by lightning during the storms. No injuries were reported from the lightning strikes in Naperville and Oak Forest.

The heavy downpour also caused a massive backup on Interstate 55, due to standing water near County Line Road. All but one outbound lane of traffic had to be shut down due to flooding Tuesday night.

Tuesday night’s storms also prompted airlines to cancel more than 115 flights at O’Hare International Airport, while all flights were halted at Midway International Airport starting at 8:30 p.m. Flight operations had resumed at Midway by Wednesday morning, although some early flights were being delayed up to 15 minutes at both airports due to low visibility from fog.

Though some areas could see some lingering rain Wednesday morning, no more rain is in the forecast until Memorial Day.