A series of tornadoes touched down yesterday morning throughout Central Illinois. The Associated Press reports at least six people died across the state from the storms. Governor Pat Quinn declared seven counties as disaster areas, including LaSalle County. ComEd crews restored tens of thousands of power outages.
Crossroads United Methodist Church sits on the edge of Washington, Illinois. Pastor Tom Goodell says the timing of the storm may have protected some people from physical harm.
“We can see from the church whole parts of town that are gone," Goodell said. "Many of the people where in our church worshipping when their houses were swept away and have been here with us all afternoon and some of those folks that have been here help have lost everything and yet they’ve been here helping to fix food and greet people when they’ve come in.”
About 100 homes in city of Pekin sustained damage, half are completely destroyed. About 20 homes in East Peoria were heavily damaged and may not be safe to reenter.
Washington Resident Susan Newton lives next door to the Trails Edge neighborhood that was heavily damaged. She says the tornado demolished most of her street while she was at church:
“We have neighbors that have lost their entire home, and last night we were at a dinner party at friends of ours, and their home is gone. Gone. There’s nothing left,” Newton said.
There were only minor injuries after a tornado Sunday ripped through part of the Champaign County town of Gifford.
When the storm hit, Sheri Pickett was working at a bar, where she hunkered down in a walk-in cooler.
Pickett says it was a moment she’ll never forget.
“It sounded like a train going over the top of the bar," Pickett said. "There was only three of us there, and I got the walk-in unlocked. They always tell you to go to a safe place, and that’s the safest place we could get to. So, definitely the most scariest thing I ever encountered.”
Rick Atterbury with the Champaign County Emergency Management Agency says 20 homes were completely destroyed in Gifford, and dozens badly damaged.
First responders were working all day on Sunday removing debris and making sure everyone was safe, and Atterbury says clean-up efforts will continue Monday.
“First thing will be to take power restored to those areas of the city that weren’t badly damaged. Then from there I think from there the formal damage assessment that will go with a potential disaster declaration. We already have declared emergency in the county. Given the other damage in the state, there may be a statewide declaration at some point,” Atterbury said.
Governor Pat Quinn is scheduled to survey the damage.
Illinois Public Radio's Alex Rusciano, Sean Powers, Denise Molina-Weiger, and Tanya Koonce contributed to this report.