EAST CHICAGO | An early morning thunderstorm ripped the brick facade off the top floor of a North Harbor high rise Tuesday, sending masonry plummeting to Lincoln Street nine stories below.
No injuries were reported, but residents of the 86-unit Lincoln Apartments were forced to spend the night elsewhere after city officials ordered the building be evacauted.
Buses provided by the North Township trustee's office ferried displaced families from the site — a small triangle between Lincoln Street, Broadway and Guthrie Street just north of Callahan Park — to an emergency staging area at nearby Field Elementary School.
A heavy storm moved through the area shortly before 7 a.m., tearing down tree branches and power lines, and leaving a large section of Indiana Harbor without electricity until well into the afternoon.
"I heard a crash, and then people screaming in the hallway running for the stairs," said Jean Arnold, who lives on the third floor of the apartment building. "So I left too."
Officials with the city's Health Department, Housing Authority and Redevelopment Commission were on the scene comparing lists of available housing units for short-term accommodations with Red Cross representatives.
Some likely would spend the night at one of the city's emergency cooling shelters, said Health Department Director Diana Garcia Burns, which were being activated in anticipation of possible triple-digit temperatures today.
The north wall of the building would "definitely have to be removed," said Building Commissioner Winna Guzman, and at least some of the southern wall, where bricks were clearly separating from the cinder block framework.
"We're talking with owners regarding repairs to bring the building back up to code," Guzman said, "and preparing a structural assessment, for which the owners will be responsible."
Melvin Morris, building manager, advised evacuees visiting his first-floor office to take enough clothing with them to last "at least for a couple of days."