Debris from wind damage on south side of Saint Edmunds Church, Oak Park, IL on Wednesday April 5, 2023 | Todd A. Bannor

Dealing with both interior and exterior damage from Tuesday’s severe storm, Holy Week services at St. Edmund Catholic Church have been moved to its sister parish at Ascension.

In a letter to parishioners Wednesday night, two local pastors, wrote that on the advice of the archdiocese and “various authorities” they will move all services to Ascension “for the time being.” A picture sent with the email revealed that some decorative stone had come through the roof of the church and landed in the center aisle of the sanctuary. There was also substantial stone debris on the south side of the church’s exterior.

Rain and wind damage was spread across the center of Oak Park, said Rob Sproule, Oak Park’s public works director. 

“We were in an active response situation,” said Sproule. 

The majority of the damage was focused between Division Street and the Eisenhower Expressway. Public works responded to several reports of fallen trees and large branches, Sproule told Wednesday Journal. All significant situations were resolved the night of, and the department is now handling general clean up across the village.

“There were some pretty significant winds!” Sproule said.

Missing finial on north side of Children’s School building due to wind damage on Wednesday April 5, 2023 | Todd A. Bannor
Debris on north side of Children’s School building due to wind damage on Wednesday April 5, 2023 | Todd A. Bannor

In addition to damage at St. Edmund Church, 188 S. Oak Park Ave., there was similar damage on the exterior of the former parish school just across Pleasant Street. That building is currently leased to The Children’s School. While both the front of the church and three sides of the school were behind construction fencing by late Wednesday, the Montessori school was in operation with students entering through a door off the rear alley. 

“We are working with local authorities and the Archdiocese of Chicago to assess the damage, stabilize the structure, and to protect exposed areas,” Rev. Rex Pillai and Rev. Carl Morello wrote.

Wednesday Journal reported last month that the Chicago Catholic Archdiocese had declined to extend a lease to the Montessori school beyond this June, citing unspecified structural issues at the school. The school’s leadership said this week that an earlier report from the archdiocese that The Children’s School had found a new permanent location was premature.

The Park District of Oak Park had to temporarily close Austin Gardens, at Ontario Street and Forest Avenue, to the public Tuesday afternoon, after the strong winds struck down seven mature trees. The preschool and the after-school program that operate out of Austin Gardens were temporarily moved to Barrie Center and Cheney Mansion, respectively. 

Austin Gardens will reopen at about 4 p.m., April 11, after the affected large trees have been removed. All other PDOP parks continue to be open for public use.

“The safety of our residents is a top priority, so we need to make sure the space is safe before reopening,” said PDOP Executive Director Jan Arnold. 

 The main branch of the Oak Park Public Library lost power due to the storm, as did the traffic lights at the intersection of Madison Street and Oak Park Avenue. An Oak Park police officer was out there that night monitoring traffic.

Oak Park and River Forest High School didn’t escape the storm either. At about 2 p.m., part of the school’s air handler, the device that regulates and circulates air, was blown off its roof toward the east side of Scoville Avenue. ORPF Superintendent Greg Johnson was the first to notice. 

Photo by Greg Johnson

“I happened to be sitting in front of a window in Dr. Johnson’s office,” said OPRF spokesperson Karin Sullivan. “Suddenly, he looked past me and exclaimed that it looked like something had blown off our building.”

The residents of a house nearby got the unwelcome surprise of having the large metal tube hit their home’s roof. Their next-door neighbors didn’t get off easy either as the air handler then landed against the side of the adjacent house. Fortunately, no one was injured, according to Sullivan.

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