22 Years Later: Looking Back on the Plainfield Tornado

With 260 mph winds, the F5 tornado took just eight minutes to complete its destruction as it cut a swath from Wheatland township to Plainfield, Crest Hill and and Joliet.

It arrived with no warning, killing 29 people, injuring 350 and destroying hundreds of homes as it cut a nearly 16-mile path from Wheatland Township through Plainfield to Crest Hill and Joliet.

Twenty-two years later, anyone old enough to remember can probably tell you exactly where they were when the Plainfield tornado struck at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 28, 1990.

Ironically, the storm that caused so much destruction — even demolishing  and — also put Plainfield on the map, helping transform it from a small town of 4,500 to a suburb of more than 39,000.

To date, the 1990 disaster remains the only F5 tornado that’s hit the U.S. during August.

Tuesday morning, WGN meteorologist Tom Skilling reflected on the weather conditions that created the deadly tornado on his weather blog:

The heat/humidity combo, in concert with a southbound cold front, the presence of an unusually strong late August jet stream and a dizzyingly sharp vertical decline in temperatures, were part of an atmospheric set-up which rendered the atmosphere explosively unstable--a perfect breeding ground for tornadic thunderstorms, which erupted during the afternoon. From those powerhouse storms, the devastating Plainfield tornado evolved. … The tornado emanated from a southeastbound supercell which had spawned damaging straightline surface winds the length of DeKalb and in sections of west and south Kane County. But it was over the Fox River at Oswego, the thunderstorm was to go tornadic--a violent vortex which roared 15 miles across Crest Hill and Plainfield, destroying everything with which it came in contact.

Check out videos of the destruction left by the tornado on Plainfield native Roy Taylor's website. (Note: Click on the "YouTube" logo to view a larger version of the videos)

Read more on Plainfield Patch:

Shannon Antinori August 28, 2012 at 10:34 PM
Thanks, Olddeegee. Still seems unbelievable.
Brandon Andreasen August 29, 2012 at 02:14 AM
Hard to believe I was only 6 years old when it happened. The memories still seem fresh. I guess that's how you can tell the difference between old and new Plainfield, though. If you were one of the 4,500 living here. That makes you old school Plainfield.
MidwestGal September 01, 2012 at 01:45 PM
Thanks for posting Oldgeedee - the video seems movie-like. I too remember driving around looking at the damage and seeing St Marys. Lots of towns have old vs. new - it's the town attitude and spirit that make it what it is.
Bill Konn September 01, 2012 at 10:12 PM
I was a MD-80 Captain for Midway Airlines back then. I flew over the site on the way to Midway, and the path of that Tornado looked like a path from a Bulldozer that destroyed every thing in its path. I'll never forget that flight, and it looked like a war zone below me.
Tim Hanson March 22, 2013 at 08:27 AM
I was on my way home from work when got caught up in the tornado... Picked up my car and set back down 50 yards away!!! Scary!!!... And seeing the high school and buses all over.. as if it was yesterday... Tim Hanson...


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