Tornado Leaves Naperville Homeowners Displaced a Year Later

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The Naperville tornado of 2021 still has residents shaken and frustrated a year later.

“Thank goodness we were in the one part of the master bedroom that did not get hit by glass,” said homeowner Marie Whirledge, of Nutmeg Lane, one of the streets hit badly during the storm.  Her daughter had just came running to their room after hearing all the noise from the storm just moments before the tornado ravaged their home.  “She could’ve been in her bedroom, which was completely destroyed.”

Marie called her husband, Marc, who was out of town, to share what had happened.

“The fact that she said they were okay, I thought ‘maybe some trees were blown over,'” he said.  “And then you just see all the damage and destruction and all the debris just everywhere and you finally realize how bad it was, all the mayhem in the neighborhood.”

The Tornado’s Prolonged Impact

The storm ripped away siding from the garage, took out a structural beam holding up the daughter’s bedroom, and blew out a majority of the windows.  To this day, the impact of the Naperville tornado continues to be a nightmare for the Whirledge family, whose home still remains uninhabitable, except for some birds and carpenter bees.

“It couldn’t have happened at a worse time in the middle of COVID.  With supply chain issues and lack of workers, it’s just really difficult,” said Marc.  “We waited almost 6 months for our windows.  Making sure the contractors are on time and getting out here is a challenge.  We’re still negotiating with insurance company on certain items.”

“None of the things that we could have done the adjustor didn’t tell us to do or we just didn’t know,” Marie added.  “Like to get dehumidifiers and fans blowing, take the drywall out immediately, we could’ve stopped mold from growing.”

But because mold did grow throughout the entire house, all the drywall and insulation had to be removed and is still waiting to be replaced, along with the home’s exterior siding.  They say their insurance company, USAA, is paying a fraction of the overall cost for repairs, which is in the 10s of thousands of dollars and they’re fighting not to have to pay out of pocket.  They’re not the only ones who’ve had to wait months for repairs.  Their next-door neighbors, the Saez family, moved back in just at the end of May.  Meanwhile other homeowners are still waiting.

“The paperwork and the bureaucracy were longer than the rebuild itself,” said Leandro Saez.

City Staff Reaction

The City of Naperville staff share in the frustration.

“I think I’m personally frustrated that there are some houses that are virtually untouched, but there are some contractors who just seem slow,” said Paul Felstrup, Field Projects Supervisor for the city’s Transportation, Engineering and Development (TED) department.  He was one of the first city staff on the scene the morning after the tornado to verify which homes were deemed uninhabitable, which he says was 19 homes.

In the meantime, the city has assisted with utility bills and property taxes for these homeowners.

“The city is doing what we can & that we’re there for them as we can be but we can only do so much.”

Trying to Move Forward

Meanwhile, the families on Nutmeg Lane are doing their best to keep a positive outlook.

“We received a lot of support from everybody, people that we know, the neighbors, people that we don’t know,” said Saez.  “We’re feeling home now again.”

“Despite the fact that our house was destroyed, we realize just how fortunate we were,” said Marie.

Naperville News 17’s Kevin Machak reports.