CHICAGO — Strong storms that swept across northern Illinois spawned at least two tornadoes, severely damaged homes and forced first responders to pull survivors from basements, officials said today.
Northern Indiana and parts of Iowa and Michigan also saw damage from possible tornadoes, with storms knocking out power to thousands of people late yesterday and early today. But by this morning, the skies had cleared and the rain had moved east toward Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York.
Particularly hard hit last night was a private camping resort in Sublette, Illinois, a community about 100 miles west of Chicago. Five people were hurt, and one was hospitalized with serious injuries. The National Weather Service confirmed it was an EF-2 tornado with winds between 111 mph and 135 mph.
Fire Chief Kevin Schultz said damage was worse than anticipated, spread across about 700 acres of the Woodhaven Association resort.
“At this point in time, the best words to describe it is decimated,” Schultz said this morning. “There are trailers that are in trees. There are trailers that are upside down . . . . It is the worst thing I’ve ever seen.”
Illinois’ Governor Bruce Rauner deployed the 80-member Illinois Task Force 1 search-and-rescue team to assist this morning, and said at a news conference that he was concerned out-of-towners were hurt or trapped and wouldn’t be reported missing.
About 70 miles southeast of the camping resort, another confirmed EF-2 tornado raked Coal City at about 10 p.m. yesterday and damaged several subdivisions. Authorities said five people suffered minor injuries and everyone was accounted for in the city of about 5,000 people, but crews planned to conduct a secondary search today.
Debra Burla, 59, and her husband sheltered in an underground crawls pace on their 100-year-old farm, but the wind nearly sucked her out of it, she said.
“I kept crawling to the middle [of the crawl space] . . . because I was sitting right by the opening of it, said Burla, whose farm was heavily damaged. Her daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter were temporarily stuck in their own crawl space after their garage collapsed on top of it.
The Illinois Emergency Management Agency was gathering information on the extent of the storm damage in the area. Rauner also issued a state disaster proclamation for Lee and Grundy counties to make state resources available for recovery.
“It’s a miracle, frankly, when you see the devastation that there were no deaths and no life-threatening injuries,” Rauner said after viewing the damage by helicopter.
To the west, an estimated 40 to 50 Hy-Vee store employees and customers in the southern Iowa town of Albia took shelter in the store cooler when the storm struck yesterday evening, shattering store windows and sending glass flying into a nearby neighbourhood. Homes in the area lost roofs and windows as well.
In Michigan, a series of severe thunderstorms damaged homes and caused power outages. More than 50 homes as well as church and other buildings were damaged by a tornado yesterday in Portland, about 25 miles north-west of Lansing. And the National Weather Service said one tornado hit about 1:30 a.m. today near Manchester, south-west of Ann Arbor.
Garrett Macomber told The Ann Arbor News that his farm was among those damaged.
“Half the roof is gone, it ripped out the trees, and I don’t even know about our fence,” said Macomber, who told the newspaper that he jumped out of bed and ran to get everyone into the basement. “It was a ridiculous amount of wind,” he said. “It felt like the whole house was lifting off its foundation.”