A series of tornados touched down yesterday morning throughout Central Illinois. At least one person is dead in the city of Washington, and many homes were completely leveled. Crossroads United Methodist Church sits on the edge of Washington. 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. Many of the people were in our church worshiping when their houses were being swept away and have been here with us all afternoon. Some of those folks have been here helping, they've lost everything and yet they're here helping to fix food and greet people when they 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.
There were only minor injuries after a tornado yesterday 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. 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 today:
"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."
Governor Pat Quinn is scheduled to survey the damage in Gifford this afternoon at 2:30. He's already declared seven counties, including Woodford, Tazewell, and Champaign, disaster areas.
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