Monday, June 07, 2010

Weather service: 15 tornadoes hit central Illinois

Weather service: 15 tornadoes hit central Illinois
Copyright © 2010, Chicago Tribune
June 7, 2010 12:36 PM

Damage to a home in Streator. (WGN-Ch. 9)

Two days after tornadoes cut a swath through central Illinois, residents of the towns in their path were still digging out from rubble and assessing the damage to their homes and other buildings.

Meanwhile the National Weather Service confirmed that at least 15 tornadoes hit Illinois Saturday night.

The weather service office in Romeoville said seven tornadoes touched down in its area of responsibility, including one each in southwest LaSalle County, Streator, St. Anne Township near Kankakee, Livingston County between Streator and Dwight and Chatsworth, and two in Dwight.

The NWS office to the south, which covers much of central Illinois, also reported seven twisters, while the office responsible for the the northwest part of the state reported one tornado in Putnam County.

At a morning press conference Streator Mayor Jimmie Lansford said about 100 structures there -- the bulk of them homes -- sustained minor to heavy damage. Thirty-five buildings were among the hardest hit he said, meaning they were either too damaged to be saved or had been leveled by the storm.

Crews from ComEd, Nicor and Verizon were in town, working to restore services to residents. A few customers were still without electricity this morning, Lansford said, but ComEd had told city officials it expects to have full power restored by the afternoon.

Lansford said anyone wishing to make donations of money to help in the recovery effort to contact the Salvation Army or the American Red Cross.

Those wanting to volunteer were asked to call 815-257-9911 for more information. Non-local contractors are required to get a permit, and can call 815-679-8578 for additional information.

Lansford asked residents clearing their own property to take debris to the street and separate it into three piles: one for landscape waste such as tree branches, another for building materials and a third for shingles. The cleanup will start with landscape debris, he said.

"This is an area that has always pulled together in need," he said, "and I don't see that not happening this time."

Gov. Pat Quinn plans to travel to central Illinois this afternoon to survey the damage.

Quinn plans to fly into Dwight, which was particularly hard-hit. He said the state's emergency management agency is already working to help victims, but that he wants to see the area in order to ask for help from the federal government.

"It was pretty severe," Quinn said following a speech in Chicago. "When you lose a lot of buildings and it effects human beings, we have some people that are injured, it's important we tell the federal government we need some disaster assistance."

In Streator, Valerie Anderson told WGN-Ch. 9 this morning that she was lucky she wasn't home when the storms arrived but several blocks away. When she walked back home that night, it was dark and she didn't see the full scope of the damage to her neighborhood.

The following morning, "when we saw what we had to walk through, it was like, 'How did we get through that?' " she asked.

As for her own home, the roof was gone. Or at least, it wasn't where it should be. It was in the backyard.

Brenda Lawless said it took about 45 seconds for a tornado to destroy her home as she and her family hid in a closet.

Afterward, when they emerged, "It looked like you were walking out of a stage from Hollywood," she said.

Lawless and her husband had been working on their dream home for a decade, but the house is now destroyed.

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