Last week’s lighting storm is long gone. But its aftermath is still leaving an aftershock on Oak Park’s pocketbook.

As of Monday, the village had spent $43,000 in overtime and contractual services to clean up after the storm. Add in disposal costs and Oak Park’s expenses are pushing $50,000, says John Wielebnicki, director of Public Works.

The village budgets a certain amount each year for emergency storm cleanup. But Oak Park already spent most of that money following a raging storm last Father’s Day. The village will have to cut some other item in its budget or eat into its fund balance to make up for the costs, Wielebnicki said.

“We’re asking residents to bundle and sticker their storm damage as our resources are pretty thin,” he said last week.

About 40-50 large tree limbs fell around Oak Park and a couple of entire trees fell on the public parkway. The village spent more than $100,000 to clean up after last August’s intense storm, which leveled numerous trees.

Tree loss and storm damage were minimal in River Forest, said Phil Cotter, assistant director of public works. The village finished its cleanup efforts the day after the storm.

“It wasn’t anything like the storm we had a year ago,” Cotter said. River Forest incurred no overtime and spent less than $1,000 in contractual services.

About 2,500 residents lost power in Oak Park last week, with another 200 in the dark in River Forest. More than 330 were without power two days after the storm in Oak Park and another 24 in River Forest, according to Commonwealth Edison.

Four streets were closed off last week because of downed power lines. A live line stretched across the street near Lyman and Adams last week. The village blocked off the street and asked a nearby resident to shut off his power as a precautionary measure.

“I’m comfortable without the power, but I’m more worried with these lines just lying there,” said the resident, Mike Powills, whose huge ash tree in his backyard fell and clipped the line. “I know they’re insulated, but I’m just really irritated with ComEd.”

Sheila Martinotti lives on the 900 block of Home Avenue and was also without power last Wednesday. Her food was starting to spoil, but she was more concerned about a neighbor across the alley with disabled children.

“The park district has offered to let them cool down in the pool,” she said. “The problem is they can’t get out of the house because their lift doesn’t work.”

ComEd’s entire system had its power back on Friday, said spokesman Jeff Burdick. About 670,000 customers lost power across Northern Illinois. Hundreds of utility poles were downed and transformers damaged in its coverage area. ComEd estimates it will cost between $15 and $20 million for the repairs.

“It’s part of our cost of doing business,” Burdick said. “This has been a more active than normal storm season this year.”


No help for the afflicted

(pictured above) For over a week, a large tree branch has been hanging over the alley behind the 600 block of South Clinton Avenue, suspended only by a Comcast cable. Peter Schmitt, who owns the house in front of the tree, has contacted ComEd, Comcast, the Oak Park Police Department, and the Oak Park Fire Department, looking for assistance in resolving the dangerous situation, but to no avail. Schmitt acknowledged the poor timing of the incident, as Village Manager Tom Barwin was in Boulder, Colo.

The fallen tree prevented any garbage in the alley from being collected and blocked several residents from having access to their garages. Schmitt said everyone on his block is “pretty traumatized” and he has scolded the village, adding “nobody seems to want to own this. I feel helpless.” The photo was taken Monday morning, a week after the storm.

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