As severe storms downed trees and cut power to thousands of Chicago-area homes Wednesday night, firefighters tunneled into a collapsed barn in south suburban Manteno to rescue a group of trapped horses.
Neighbors, family and friends lent a hand to dig through the rubble after powerful winds tore through the structure. Covered in mud, the barn's owner said the group kept digging until nine of the 10 horses were rescued.
"You could hear them crying for help," Allanna Smith said, "just crying and crying for help, and it's such a heart-wrenching sound coming from an animal, especially when you're such an animal lover."
Smith said she heard the wind ripping down the barn as she rode out the storm in her home's basement. She was relieved her home wasn't damaged, but the sight of the barn and the sound of her trapped horses wounded her.
"I looked out that window, and I just screamed," Smith said. "I'm not a panicker, but I looked out the window and I just screamed. And I ran out the door and it was still pouring down rain and there were a couple ponies running around outside so my son started to help catch them."
A church nearby was also destroyed, and thousands in Kankakee County including Smith remain without power.
At the peak of the outages, nearly 40,000 Chicago-area customers were knocked offline. Another 35,000 were without electricity in northwest Indiana, officials said.
Through the rest of the area, the National Weather Service reported at least one tornado on the ground, near Somonauk, during the evening rush hour. Large hailstones -- some half-dollar in size -- were reported in Aurora.
A trail of debris was seen Thursday morning scattered for hundreds of yards from the barn in Manteno. Much cleanup needs to be done, but Smith says she's relieved her horses made it through the wreckage.