Tor­na­does, dam­ag­ing storms sweep through Mid­west

Neigh­bor­hoods de­stroyed; at least 5 peo­ple killed

The Washington Times Daily - - Nation - BY DON BAB­WIN

WASH­ING­TON, ILL. | Dozens of tor­na­does and in­tense thun­der­storms swept across the Mid­west on Sun­day, leav­ing at least five peo­ple dead and un­leash­ing pow­er­ful winds that flat­tened en­tire neigh­bor­hoods, flipped over cars and up­rooted trees.

Illi­nois took the brunt of the fury as the string of un­usu­ally pow­er­ful late­sea­son tor­na­does tore across the state, in­jur­ing dozens and even prompt­ing of­fi­cials at Chicago’s Sol­dier Field to evac­u­ate the stands and de­lay the Bears game.

“The whole neigh­bor­hood’s gone. The wall of my fire­place is all that is left of my house,” said Michael Per­dun, speak­ing by cell­phone from the hard-hit town of Wash­ing­ton, where he said his neigh­bor­hood was wiped out in a mat­ter of sec­onds.

“I stepped out­side and I heard it com­ing. My daugh­ter was al­ready in the base­ment, so I ran down­stairs and grabbed her, crouched in the laun­dry room and all of a sud­den I could see day­light up the stair­way and my house was gone.”

A man and his sis­ter were killed when a tor­nado hit their home around noon in the ru­ral com­mu­nity of New Min­den, said Mark Styninger, the coroner of Wash­ing­ton County in south­ern Illi­nois. A third per­son died in Wash­ing­ton, and two oth­ers per­ished in Mas­sac County in the far south­ern part of the state, said Patti Thomp­son of the Illi­nois Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency. She did not pro­vide de­tails.

With com­mu­ni­ca­tions dif­fi­cult and many roads im­pass­able, it re­mained un­clear how many peo­ple were killed or hurt by the string of tor­na­does. In a news re­lease, the Illi­nois Na­tional Guard said it had dis­patched 10 fire­fight­ers and three ve­hi­cles to Wash­ing­ton to as­sist with im­me­di­ate search and re­cov­ery op­er­a­tions.

In Wash­ing­ton, a ru­ral com­mu­nity of 16,000, whole blocks of houses were erased from the land­scape, and Illi­nois State Po­lice Trooper Dustin Pierce said the tor­nado cut a path from one end of town to the other, knock­ing down power lines, rup­tur­ing gas lines and rip­ping off roofs.

An auto parts store with sev­eral peo­ple in­side was re­duced to a pile of bricks, metal and rebar; a bat­tered car, its wind­shield im­paled by a piece of lum­ber, was flung along­side it. De­spite the dev­as­ta­tion, all the em­ploy­ees man­aged to crawl out of the rub­ble un­hurt, Trooper Pierce said.

“I went over there im­me­di­ately af­ter the tor­nado, walk­ing through the neigh­bor­hoods, and I couldn’t even tell what street I was on,” Wash­ing­ton Al­der­man Tyler Gee told WLS-TV.

“Just com­pletely flat­tened — some of the neigh­bor­hoods here in town, hun­dreds of homes,” he said.

Among those who lost ev­ery­thing was Curt Zehr, who de­scribed the speed with which the tor­nado turned his farm­house out­side Wash­ing­ton into a mass of rub­ble scat­tered over hun­dreds of yards. His truck was sent fly­ing and landed on an up­rooted tree.

“They heard the siren … and saw [the tor­nado] right there and got into the base­ment,” he said of his wife and adult son who were home at the time. Then, sec­onds later, when they looked out from their hiding place the house was gone and “the sun was out and right on top of them.”

At OSF St. Fran­cis Med­i­cal Center in Peoria, spokes­woman Amy Paul said 37 pa­tients had been treated, eight with in­juries rang­ing from bro­ken bones to head in­juries. Another hos­pi­tal, Methodist Med­i­cal Center in Peoria, treated more than a dozen, but of­fi­cials there said none of them was se­ri­ously in­jured.

By night­fall, Trooper Pierce said there were re­ports of loot­ing in Wash­ing­ton.

The storm also slammed through parts of Wis­con­sin, Indiana, Michi­gan, Ohio and Ken­tucky as it made its way east into the mid-At­lantic states Sun­day night. Tor­na­does, large hail and dam­ag­ing winds tore through sev­eral com­mu­ni­ties, leav­ing thou­sands with­out power as emer­gency crews tried to clear roads.


Fire­fight­ers as­sess the dam­age in Wash­ing­ton, Ill., on Sun­day af­ter a tor­nado lev­eled at least 50 homes in the area.

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