Tornadoes devastate southern Illinois, Midwestern towns

Susan Du

At least six people died in southern Illinois as a series of tornadoes swept across the Midwest late Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning, creating a path of destruction through six states.

Tornadoes also touched down in parts of Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri and Nebraska. Harrisburg, Ill., in southern Illinois, suffered the greatest damage, said Patti Thompson, spokeswoman for the Illinois Emergency Management Agency.

The tornado that hit the city was an EF4, the second most powerful on the enhanced Fujita scale, according to the National Weather Service. Winds were estimated at 170 mph.

After Gov. Pat Quinn toured Harrisburg and met with first responders at the scene Wednesday, he issued a state disaster proclamation for the area. Currently, IEMA is working with local emergency response organizations to organize relief efforts while the Federal Emergency Management Agency monitors the situation in case it also needs to step in.

Thompson said it was too early to know if FEMA will deploy its resources to the disaster area as well.

“We’re trying to gather the information to determine is it something that we’ll need federal assistance with,” she said. “But we have been in contact with them and are keeping them apprised of information that we’re getting from on scene.”

With Quinn’s backing, IEMA deployed state resources, including state troopers and personnel from the Illinois Department of Transportation and Illinois Department of Natural Resources, to the areas affected by the storm, according to a news release issued Wednesday by the governor’s office.

“My heart goes out to the victims of this devastating storm, and I would like to thank the many people who have stepped up and volunteered to aid their neighbors,” Quinn said in the release. “I have met with local community leaders and first responders, and they know the state of Illinois is here to help as they recover from this disaster.”

Thompson said relief efforts are “something that could be going on for days” as local emergency response teams compile lists of resources they need from the state. In the meantime, the American Red Cross Little Egypt Network, based in Murphysboro, Ill., is in charge of volunteer and charity relief efforts, according to the news release.

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