ASK TOM WHY: What was the strongest tornado that ever occurred in the Chicago area?

Dear Tom,

 

What was the strongest tornado that ever occurred in the Chicago area?

 

— Charlie Burns

 

Dear Charlie,

 

Dating back to 1855 the Chicago area has been hit by hundreds of tornadoes, but none was stronger that the area’s only F5 twister, the Plainfield tornado that took 29 lives and injured 350 as it ravaged a 16-mile long, 600-yard wide path from Oswego to Joliet on August 28, 1990. The storm that struck the area on an oppressively hot and humid afternoon was spawned by a huge 12-mile high thunderstorm that also produced tennis-ball size hail and very strong winds. The rain and cloud-shrouded vortex was nearly invisible as it leveled seven Plainfield subdivisions, homes in Wheatland and apartments in Crest Hill. Famed tornado researcher, the late Dr. Ted Fujita, felt that it was the strongest twister that he had investigated in nearly four decades of tornado research.

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