Loose pebbles popped out skyscraper windows in storm, Chicago officials say

Small stones placed atop buildings to reflect sunlight

At work in Willis TowerTwo firefighters work to remove shards of glass from the frame of a window that blew out on the south side of the Willis Tower during a severe storm that ripped through downtown Chicago. (Chris Sweda, Chicago Tribune / June 18, 2010

Loose pebbles from roofs caused downtown windows to pop out and crash to the ground in Friday’s storm, Chicago officials said Monday.

The pebbles are placed on top of buildings to reflect sunlight, said Jose Santiago, director of the city’s Office of Emergency Management. Friday afternoon’s storm, which whipped up 77 mph winds, kicked up an unusual amount of pebbles, causing them to strike skyscraper windows, including a few at Willis Tower, Santiago said.

The wind was sporadic and blew in unusual directions, Santiago said.


Does the wind know what architects don’t?

As the Tribune reported earlier this week, the windstorm that broke four windows at Willis Tower did a lot more damage at the glass-sheathed 22 W. Washington office building. It cracked 35 windows there, but hardly anybody noticed because 22 W. Washington isn’t the tallest building in North America.

Having been to the scene, blogger Lynn Becker muses that 22 W. Washington actually looks better in its disjointed, post-storm condition. His take: The dark, off-the-shelf replacement windows installed after the storm create a Mondrianesque pattern with the energy of “Broadway Boogie-Woogie”–an upgrade from the dull cliche of mirror-glass that I panned when I reviewed the tower in 2008.




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