'Absolutely Devastated': At least two dead in Illinois tornadoes

Apr 10, 2015 1:24 PM by NBC News

Emergency teams were combing through the damage Friday from deadly tornadoes in Illinois, as forecasters predicted severe lighting storms would strike from New York to the Gulf Coast.

In central Illinois, residents were carefully sifting through huge piles of debris in the "absolutely devastated" town of Fairdale, the scene of one of two tornadoes late Thursday. Two people were killed there, according to authorities.

One of the victims was identified Friday as Geraldine M. Schultz. Another woman was discovered Friday afternoon, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner said Friday, and identified by the county coroner's office as 69-year-old Jacqueline Klosa.

Rauner said authorities had not heard of any additional missing people, and they don't believe anyone else was killed.

"We're hopeful that our search will be fruitless in the sense that we won't find anybody," Fire Chief Pete Polarek of the nearby Sycamore Fire Department, which was helping out with the searches, said Friday. "We're hopeful that everybody is out and they've relocated somewhere else."

Nearly every structure in the tiny unincorporated town about 80 miles northwest of Chicago was damaged, said Rockland Fire Department Chief Matt Knott. Some homes were leveled "down to the slabs," he said.

"This town is absolutely devastated," Knott said.

"We're very blessed that more people were not hurt," considering the "complete destruction of so many homes with people in them," said Rauner. The governor declared DeKalb and Ogle counties disaster areas Friday. The counties will now receive support from the state.

Ogle County Sheriff Brian Van Vickle said 49 homes in the county had been damaged, including about 30 that had been destroyed. The sheriff's own home was among those that had been completely flattened, he said.

At least 20 people in the community of about 200 residents were taken to the hospital with injuries of various degrees, and six stayed overnight, officials said. One was in serious condition Friday.

Schultz had been in her house, which was "totally destroyed," DeKalb County Coroner Dennis Miller said Friday. The town was not equipped with tornado sirens, he said.

The National Weather Service said Friday that storms damage survey teams "will be deployed to work with emergency management and assess the damage that has occurred."

Daniel Prothero, who encountered the scene as he was driving through the area, said, "It was horrible."

Power was shut off to Fairdale so search and rescue crews would be safe, said George Gaulrapp, a spokesman for Commonwealth Edison Co., who said, "It looks like a bomb went off."

"It's a tragedy," Gaulrapp said. "We just pray for the families."

The utility said just before 11 a.m. ET Friday that service had been restored to approximately 58,738 customers in the area.

One of the tornadoes destroyed a restaurant and flattened at least four houses in nearby Rochelle, authorities said. About a dozen people who were trapped in the restaurant's basement were believed to have been rescued safely. Any injuries were minor and didn't require ambulances, they said.

Caleb Bryan was driving from his home in Lindenwood to Rochelle when the tornado hit.

"It was a very scary sight, heavy hail beforehand on Route 251 driving to Rochelle," he told NBC News. "As soon as the storm passed, I drove home to make sure it was still there."

Police told NBC News there was also significant damage in the towns of Kings and Hillcrest. There was no immediate word on injuries there.

"This was a violent, long-track tornado," said Ari Sarsalari, a meteorologist for The Weather Channel.

More than 900 departures and arrivals were canceled at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, and more than 950 others were delayed Thursday night.

The tornado was one of several that spun off across Illinois and Iowa on the second day of a monster storm system that peppered a 1,500-mile arc with grapefruit-size hail and winds up to 80 mph from Texas up to the Great Lakes and across to North Carolina.

On Friday, the front responsible for the severe weather was forecast to move south and east, threatening storms across the entire East Coast and Southeast.

"There will be the risk of thunderstorms pretty much from New York all the way down to the Gulf Coast," said Weather Channel lead meteorologist Brian Fortier. "There's a lot of lightning around."

The most severe storm risk was within a zone from Virginia and the Carolinas down towards Georgia and southern Louisiana, where damaging wind gusts and hail were possible.


Most Popular