Chicago Tornado. EF4-EF5 range. EF3 Satellite Tornadoes

The Chicago Tornado of 2020, was a rare super destructive multi-vortex EF5 Tornado that did incredible damage during the 2020 NBA Allstar game at the United Center on February 16, 2020. The tornado is said to be a direct influence of global warming, and the strongest tornado to every hit the United States in February. Although the tornado missed the stadium itself, the damage inflicted on the city of Chicago was so significant that it required Martial law, nation wide to be declared for 6 hours as the entire city grid was blacked out and the pentagon had assumed a nuclear device was set off downtown. Overall, the tornado is said to have killed an estimated 3,200 people (with an additional 200 indirect deaths), injured 9,950 others, and caused damages amounting to a total of $6.8 billion with a complete decimation of the Chicago loop.  Some officials place the death toll as high as 5000 for unaccounted homeless. The tornado is noted to be the deadliest and costliest tornado in world history and had the most gruesome clean ups from a tornado ever seen. 

Meteorological synopsis

The tornado initially touched down between 55th street and Plainfield road in Willowbrook at 7:24 pm as an immediately strong EF2 drill bit type tornado, ripping the rooftops from several homes in the east side of the village. Within short order the tornado rapidly grew in width as it crossed the 294 doing EF2 destruction in a wide swath  Several cars were caught in the tornado along the interstate and were forced to maneuver to avoid a wreck. As the tornado crossed Wolf Road in La Grange Highlands it rapidly intensified into an EF4 completely destroying the central section of the suburb of La Grange. The tornado then followed Ogden Ave at EF4 intensity, now 1.5 miles wide, killing nearly 43 people along the stretch between La Grange and IL Route 43, north Lyons, most people were in their vehicles. The tornado remained 1.5 miles in width through the remainder of it's lifespan. 

The tornado then began to do EF5 strength damage as it crossed into Cicero with wind speeds estimated at 314 MPH just south of Ogden Ave. Extreme destruction was witnessed as every home in south Cicero was flattened in less than 10 minutes. An estimated 500-800 people were killed in Cicero. The entire city faced extreme damage, but the worse was noted south of Ogden. The tornado continued NE and began to do extreme damage in North Lawndale where ground scouring occurred. Every home and business in North Lawndale were stripped off of their foundations. Extreme wind-rowing of debris was seen here with nearly 40 foot high piles of broken timbers, insulation, and metal along Ogden Ave. An estimated 1300 people were killed in North Lawndale, with countless injured. Most bodies found in this location were pieces of remains.

St. Anthony Hospital, similar to Joplin Missouri's Mercy, was shifted off of it's foundation in this location as well with complete destruction of the exterior walls. EF3 damage was noted in the Illinois Medical District with an estimated 300 people killed as they were caught in a wind tunnel effect between the buildings, most killed by flying glass. A similar effect was seen later in the tornado's history. 

EF5 damage began again, starting at the intersections of Ashland and West Roosevelt and continued through the tornadoes lifespan until it crossed onto Lake Michigan.

The tornado entered University of Illinois Chicago with wind speeds close to 315 MPH, some of the strongest winds recorded on earth. Most of the university students managed to make it to safety with proper warning of what was headed towards downtown, but the death-toll was still significant. An estimated 280 cars were blown out of the interchange of the Eisenhower and Kennedy Expressways. Many of the people were on their way to the  2020 NBA Allstar game at the United Center. Greektown was completely flattened with extreme wind rowing there. An estimated additional 500-900 people died in this area. Cars and even a tractor-trailer from the expressways were found lodged in the side of the skyscrapers along the Chicago River. Some more than 30 stories up. The tornado was noted to be multi-vortex in this area.

Downtown Chicago witnessed the most extreme and scientifically unique tornado damage known to man. The entire south loop from the river to the lake became a sea of flying glass moving at 300MPH. Thousands of people attempted to hide inside the skyscrapers, but few made it into the internal walls. An estimated 2000 or more people were shredded to bits as the exterior walls of the high rise buildings blew through the wind tunnel in the narrow streets. Many bodies were never found. A large percentage of the bodies were found in the lobbies of many of the buildings as they attempted to escape. Most of the downtown buildings were completely stripped of their exterior walls, and the Trump International hotel collapsed in the River. The streets were swept clean of cars, many were found far out into the lake, and Navy Pier saw total destruction with concrete shells remaining of most of the structures on the pier. 

The tornado, at full strength, turned into a massive waterspout on the lake and continued for an estimate 5 additional miles. 

Four smaller satelitte EF2 tornadoes were spotted to the north and south of the main funnel, doing minor damage in the neighborhoods of Chinatown and the west side. 


In the immediate hour after the tornado struck, the entire city was in a blackout. An estimated 6 million customers were offline, which continued for nearly a week. National news organizations and the Pentagon were briefed of a possible disaster in Chicago, but were unaware of the extent or the cause. A miscommunication by the National Weather Service led to the Pentagon believing a terrorist attack, possibly a nuclear explosion destroyed the city and the president enacted immediate martial law until further notice. The martial law was only enacted for 6 hours until proper briefing from the NWS led to immediate employment of the national guard in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana. 

Later reports state that the city was in complete chaos in the first six hours after the tornado. The streets were in gridlock and tens of thousands of people were trying to self evacuate to no avail. Another storm system came through with only a Doppler indicated tornado, but nothing on the ground, exacerbating the panic less than 2 hours later. 

Looters and gang territory violence were a major concern in every neighborhood in the city with an estimated 200 people dying in the city within the first night, most homicides.  

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