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thesouthern.com

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 29, 2012

TORN APART

STEVE JAHNKE / THE SOUTHERN

This aerial photo shows some of the damage Wednesday in Harrisburg.

Tornado strikes Harrisburg, surrounding area Riding out

the storm

THE SOUTHERN

HARRISBURG — Six people were killed and the death toll could still rise from a tornado that tore a path of destruction through Harrisburg shortly before 5 a.m. today. The Saline County Sheriff’s Department put early estimates at more than 100 people injured and 250 to 300 homes destroyed. Aerial views showed what looked like the work of a bombing. Emergency workers from across Southern Illinois were sent to help the battered city of about 9,100. Many power lines are down and some gas lines leaking. Telephone services are knocked out for many and cellular telephone traffic at times is overloaded. Utility crews are onscene and working. Several streets are blocked to all vehicle and pedestrian traffic and residents are advised to treat all power lines as being live. SEE TORNADO / PAGE 2

BY LES WINKELER THE SOUTHERN

PAUL NEWTON / THE SOUTHERN

Gene Byrd pauses for a moment while he and his son, Devyn Byrd, 14, look over the damage to a friend’s house after a tornado hit in the early morning Wednesday in Harrisrburg.

HARRISBURG — Leap Day got off to a rousing start. It was about 5 a.m. when I heard my wife get out of bed. The next sound I heard was rain or hail pounding against the side of the house. But, there was Winkeler another sound that was more troubling. I thought I was hearing a siren in the distance. The weather was severe enough that I opened the window next to the bed to make sure. The whistling wind made the siren difficult to hear, but there was no doubt this wasn’t a drill. SEE WINKELER / PAGE 2


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THE SOUTHERN ILLINOISAN WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 29, 2012

PAUL NEWTON / THE SOUTHERN

Roy Mauney of Harrisburg collects clothes from a dresser in what remains of his parents’ house after a tornado hit the Saline County town Wednesday. Mauney said his parents survived the storm by taking cover in a bathtub before their house blew off its foundation and across the street.

TORNADO: Harrisburg, surrounding area hit hard by early morning storms; six confirmed dead FROM PAGE 1 Anyone not involved in the emergency response is asked to stay away from Harrisburg until further notice. A shelter has been opened at First Baptist Church in Harrisburg at 204 N. Main Street. The Harrisburg Medical Center sustained damage in the storm, but remained open and was treating some of the injured, according to Vince Ashley, CEO of the 78-bed hospital. No one was injured at the medical center, he said. Northeast of Harrisburg, Cheryl Lovellette, a dispatcher with the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Department, said no fatalities were reported in Ridgway, but St. Joseph Church was destroyed and the village’s American Legion severely damaged in the storm. Minor injuries were reported. Lovellette said Ridgway’s mayor issued a disaster declaration, and volunteers with debris removal equipment and chain saws

still are needed to assist in relief efforts. There is no power in the town of about 900, although a massive police, fire and emergency medical response is engaged. South of Harrisburg, The Massac County Sheriff’s Department reported damage to trees and buildings near Metropolis. Trees blocked some roadways but most have since been removed. No fatalities or injuries were reported. Southwest of Harrisburg, the Pulaski County sheriff’s department confirmed some storm damage in Mounds and Mound City. County EMS crews were dispatched to assist in relief efforts in Harrisburg.

Seeing it hit The tornado was spotted as a wall cloud by area storm spotters at 4:52 a.m. It touched down at 4:56 a.m. in a southwest part of town known as Dorisville. It traveled northeast through the business district into an area called

Gaskins City. Storm spotters Ryan Buckingham and Richard Good of the Franklin County Emergency Management Agency said they were east of Marion in Williamson County when they saw the wall cloud form. They watched the tornado touch down and follow along the path of Illinois 13. The tornado caused major damage at Southeastern Illinois College. No injuries were reported at SIC. President Jonah Rice said classes have been canceled the remainder of the week. Spring break begins March 5 with classes resuming March 12. Rice said the tornado caused minor damage to most campus buildings. The greenhouse was destroyed. The softball and baseball fields got major damage, he said. “We were really fortunate. We were in the path. The tornado almost seemed to go over and touch down in Ridgway,” Rice said.

Help arriving Gov. Pat Quinn is expected to arrive about 2 p.m., and he has he has directed the Illinois Emergency Management Agency to activate the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) in Springfield. State Sen. Gary Forby, D-Benton, said, “I’ve talked to the governor’s office, the Department of Transportation, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, Ameren, and everyone else I could think of. They’re all on their way to Southern Illinois to help.” West of Harrisburg, the deputy coordinator of the Jackson County Emergency Management Agency, Shawn Priddy, said Carbondale and Murphysboro technical rescue firemen were dispatched to Harrisburg. Carbondale Deputy Police Chief Jeff Grubbs said the department sent two police officers to Harrisburg through the Illinois Emergency Alarm

System aid agreement. Carbondale Fire Chief John Michalesko said departments within Mutual Aid Box Alarm System Division 45, which covers Southern Illinois, were rallying men and equipment to the hardesthit areas. Michalesko said Carbondale’s department sent a technical rescue team and is delivering a mobile generator light tower to Harrisburg. “Our hearts go out to their families and the many others who were injured or suffered a devastating loss,” Quinn said in a written statement. “The state of Illinois is committed to doing everything possible to help these communities respond and recover from this disaster.” Said U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, “We are working closely with the members of the Illinois delegation, will be following all future developments, and stand ready to do anything we can to assist in this difficult time.”

More trouble? Severe weather may be on the way Friday, according to weather forecasters, and storm or tornado watches and warnings may be issued. A watch means storms or tornadoes are possible in your area. Stay alert for weather information and be prepared to take shelter in a safe place. Seek shelter elsewhere if you live in a mobile home. The Illinois Emergency Management Agency says to report rotating funnel clouds to local emergency management agencies, law enforcement officials or 9-1-1. Warnings mean a tornado or severe storm has been sighted or indicated on weather radar. These storms may include powerful wind and damaging hail. Take shelter immediately and turn on a battery operated radio, television or weather radio for updated information. — Most of The Southern Illinoisan newsroom staff contributed to this report. — The AP also contributed to this article.

WINKELER: Gives first-person account of riding out the storm FROM PAGE 1 By the time I got out of bed I heard my wife yelling, “Grab some clothes.” Somehow, in the dark and on autopilot, I got dressed. Now the wind was getting more and more intense. “We need to go to a safe place,” my wife said. Because we have no basement, the interior hallway where we were standing was where we need to be. “This is it,” I told her. Then we grabbed each other and slid to the floor. The next few moments, I’m guessing it was no more than 10 seconds, were surreal. The roar of the wind echoed through our ears. It wasn’t the proverbial sound of an onrushing train, but it was loud. We heard glass breaking all around us, and we heard crashes in the distance. Then, just as quickly as it came, the wind was gone. “Where’s Beau?” Judy asked. I hadn’t seen our dog in the few minutes we had been out of bed. We both started calling for him, and in a few moments we heard the clicking of toenail against hardwood floor. It was a reassuring sound. The next few moments were spent fumbling around in the dark, looking for flashlights. The going was treacherous as broken glass littered the floors. I pushed open a bedroom

door to find part of a neighbor’s house trailer had broken through our patio doors. The windows in the room were broken out. In the meantime, Judy had secured a couple of flashlights, and we surveyed the damage. We were lucky. Our house was damaged, but not structurally. After a quick survey, I went to the front door to check the yard. Beams of light were shining from a couple directions. Neighbors were all out checking their property, and going house to house checking on everyone’s safety. Fortunately, everyone in my immediate neighborhood was fine. Just a block or so east the picture was much different. Roofs were lifted off houses, other structures were destroyed. The wind, or tornado, picked up a friend’s pickup truck and moved it 30 feet. The FS building, just two blocks from our home, was flattened. Everywhere people were walking around, making sure their neighbors were fine. And, in just a matter of an hour, chain saws and tractors started cleaning up the debris. I’ve never experienced anything like this. LES WINKELER is the sports editor at The Southern Illinoisan and lives in Harrisburg. He can be reached at 618-351-5088 or les.winkeler@thesouthern. com.

STEVE JAHNKE / THE SOUTHERN

This aerial photo shows some of the damage in Harrisburg.


THE SOUTHERN ILLINOISAN WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 29, 2012

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Aid pours into Harrisburg; more still to come BY BECKY MALKOVICH AND CODELL RODRIGUEZ THE SOUTHERN

Aid is coming in throughout Southern Illinois to help Harrisburg through the tornado. Sandy Webster, executive director of the American Red Cross Little Egypt Network, said there were only a few people at their shelter at First Baptist Church, 204 N. Main St., in Harrisburg because most others are out salvaging what they can. However, she expects more to show up. Robert Freed, a volunteer with the American Red Cross and Harrisburg resident, said he was sent as a runner to disperse searches throughout the area. He said the damage he saw was astounding. “It’s pretty rough down here,” Freed said. But the people volunteering, dropping off supplies and helping out wherever possible has shown how people can come together in a time of crisis. “I’ve been overwhelmed by the support and spirit of the community,” Freed said. Emergency personnel have been pouring in from throughout the region. Police officers from areas such as Herrin, Mount Carmel, Benton and Energy have been helping out in areas such as directing traffic and going door to door to check on people. Beverly Trammel, secretary with First United Methodist Church in Harrisburg, said the church’s main office in Springfield will be sending in a truckload of supplies including cleaning supplies and hygiene supplies. She said there will also be a staging area for chain saw cleanup at the Harrisburg Rural King, 701 N. Commercial St., in Harrisburg. She said the church is also providing food for police officers and volunteers. Webster said local schools are also providing food for volunteers. VNA-TIP health care has set up collection sites at branches throughout

PAUL NEWTON / THE SOUTHERN

Harrisburg (above, below) was hit by a tornado early Wednesday morning.

Southern Illinois. Those interested can take donations to branches in Marion, 8341 Express Drive, Suite B; Murphysboro, 702 Chestnut or 707 Walnut; Anna, 125 Leigh Drive; Benton, 1107 W. Church St.; and Pinckneyville, 206 N. Main St. Carbondale mayor and Red Cross volunteer Joel Fritzler encouraged people to bring whatever supplies they can, including water, to the American Red Cross Little Egypt Network at 665 N. Airport Road, Suite 112, in Murphysboro. beckymalk@gmail.com 618-927-5633 codell.rodriguez@thesouthern.com 618-351-5804

PAUL NEWTON / THE SOUTHERN

Shawn Anglin looks over the remains of his South Water Street home while retrieving belongings after the tornado Wednesday in Harrisrbug.


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THE SOUTHERN ILLINOISAN WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 29, 2012

Gov. Quinn expected to visit storm-ravaged area THE SOUTHERN

Quinn

Gov. Pat Quinn will be in Harrisburg this afternoon to view the damage done by Wednesday morning’s deadly tornadoes and storms. Quinn was expected to be in

Harrisburg at about 2 p.m., a spokeswoman for the governor said. Quinn also directed the Illinois Emergency Manage0ment Agency to activate the State Emergency Operations Center in Springfield. “At least six people have lost

their lives in the wake of these storms, and our hearts go out to their families and the many others who were injured or suffered a devastating loss,” Quinn said in a statement. “The state of Illinois is committed to doing everything

possible to help these communities respond and recover from this disaster.” IEMA personnel were sent to Harrisburg after the storms hit, and representatives of Illinois State Police, departments of transportation,

Central Management Services, Corrections, Public Health and Natural Resources and the American Red Cross all reported to the SEOC. The emergency center will stay open as long as necessary, Quinn’s statement said.

STEVE JAHNKE / THE SOUTHERN

This aerial photo shows some of the damage in Harrisburg.

Storm serves as a reminder of the importance of preparedness THE SOUTHERN

Wednesday’s deadly weather is a bitter reminder of the importance of having an emergency plan in the event of severe weather. More severe weather may be on the way Friday, and storm or tornado watches and warnings may be issued. A watch means storms or tornadoes are possible in your area. Stay alert for weather information and be prepared to take shelter in a safe place. Seek shelter elsewhere if you live in a mobile home. The Illinois Emergency Management Agency says to report rotating funnel clouds to local emergency management agencies, law enforcement officials or 9-1-1. Warnings mean a tornado or severe storm has been sighted or indicated on weather radar. These storms may include powerful wind and damaging hail. Take shelter immediately and turn on a battery operated radio, television or weather radio for updated information. IEMA offers the following guidelines for severe Emergency crews comb through some of the damage after a tornado hit in the early morning Wednesday in Harrisburg. weather: storm shelter, basement or your head with your arms gency medical personnel to and the Internet for updated information. interior hallway without and be alert for flash arrive. During a tornado z Check on neighbors or floods. z Avoided using landline windows. If you are at home: family members who telephones or electric If you are in a vehicle: z Avoid places with z Do not park under a require special assistance. appliances until the storm z Go immediately to a wide-span roofs such as z Exit damaged build- passes. predetermined storm shel- gymnasiums, cafeterias, bridge or overpass. z Immediately exit the ings and only re-enter z Turn off air conditionter such as a cellar, base- auditoriums or large hallthem if absolutely necesvehicle and seek shelter. ers. ways. Stay away from winment or the lowest level of z Never try to outrun a sary. z Delay taking a bath or a building and stay there dows and open spaces. z Take photos or video of tornado. shower until after the z Seek shelter under until the storm has passed. damaged property and storm. z Seek shelter elsewhere heavy furniture and cover report it to your local z Seek shelter immediif you live in a mobile your head. After a tornado emergency management ately if outdoors. If you z In a multi-story buildhome. z Monitor TV, radio and agency. hear thunder then lightz If you can’t find a ing, go to the basement or z If unaffected by the ning is near. basement, go to an interior lowest floor, or find an other news outlets for the latest information or tornado, stay out of damz If driving, pull over to interior hallway with no hallway or small room instructions. aged areas until local offi- the side of the road away windows. without windows. z Use extreme care in cials allow entry. from overhanging trees z Get under a sturdy areas with downed power and power lines. Avoid piece of furniture and hold If you are outdoors: lines or natural gas leaks. touching metal parts of on. During the storm Wear footwear and watch the vehicle if lightning is z Seek shelter in a subz Use pillows or matz Stay away from win- near. tresses to protect your stantial building on its for broken glass and nails. z Check for victims and dows and doors. Draw z If no shelter is availlowest floor away from head. render first aid if neces- blinds and shades to able, find a low lying area windows. z If indoor shelter is not sary. Do not attempt to reduce the risk of flying away from trees and power If you are in public: lines. available, seek cover in a move severely injured vic- objects. z Monitor TV, radio z Go to a designated ditch or culvert. Protect tims, and wait for emerz If on a boat, get to

PAUL NEWTON / THE SOUTHERN

shore as soon as possible.

After the storm z Monitor TV, radio and other news outlets for the latest information or instructions. z Use extreme care in areas with downed power lines or natural gas leaks. Wear footwear and watch for broken glass and nails. z Check for victims and render first aid if necessary. Do not attempt to move severely injured victims, and wait for EMS to arrive. z Check on neighbors or family members who require special assistance. z Be alert for hazards on the roadway if driving. z Take photos or video of damaged property and report it to your local emergency management


THE SOUTHERN ILLINOISAN WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 29, 2012

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STEPHEN RICKERL / THE SOUTHERN

Marvin Clutts (from left), Eugene Ballance, Mike Yates, Ginger Ballance and Connie Yeats help clean the home of Mickey Tweedy after a tornado Wednesday morning.

Union County feeling shaken, but blessed No fatalities as of noon, damage mostly rural BY BRENT STEWART THE SOUTHERN

STEPHEN RICKERL / THE SOUTHERN

Patty Etherton walks across what was only hours before an enclosed porch. The roof of the structure peeled back onto the roof of her home and a section blew into her yard.

ALTO PASS — Union County residents were left shaken and with some property damage after major storms early Wednesday morning. However, many residents feel blessed that they were spared from major damage or loss of life. Union County Sheriff David Livesay said no fatalities or injuries had been reported as of noon Wednesday. Most of the damage was located in rural areas of the county — northern Cobden, Alto Pass, and Wolf Lake. Livesay said much of the damage was to residences, farm machinery and grain bins. Alto Pass was hit hardest residentially by the storm, which locals said hit around 4 a.m. Bill Morefield, whose home is on Walnut Street in Alto Pass, said he

watched the funnel cloud, looking north from his window. “It went quick,” Morefield said. “It was a tremendous roar. Then I heard the trees breaking and the roof blew off the house (next door).” Patty Etherton, whose house sits close to Illinois 127 in Alto Pass, was woken by her police scanner about 4 a.m. Hearing of the approaching storm, she got up to get dressed. “About that time, I heard the porch go,” Etherton said. Part of Etherton’s aluminum porch awning was bent upward, covering her roof. The other part landed at the side of the house. “I’m very lucky,” Etherton said. On Union Springs Road, northeast of Alto Pass, Bill and Mickey Tweedy were asleep when the tornado ripped the roof off their bedroom about 4:15 a.m. The Tweedys woke up

hearing the wind, when rain, sheet rock and insulation began falling on them as they lay in bed. The Tweedys went to a relative’s house shortly after. Mickey Tweedy said it only took the tornado about a minute to pull the roof off their house, demolish a pole barn, topple a propane tank, tear through trees and throw insulation and siding across their yard. “This morning when it got daylight, this is what we found,” said Mickey Tweedy. Aluminum siding was also wrapped in the top of a tree next door to the Tweedys’ home. Many neighbors were helping the Tweedys clean up Wednesday morning. “The Lord was looking after us,” said Mickey Tweedy. brent.stewart@thesouthern.com 618-351-5805 On Twitter: @BrentStewartSI

STEPHEN RICKERL / THE SOUTHERN

Mike Stroehlein works at Mickey Tweedy’s home on Union Springs Road after a tornado ripped the roof off the house Wednesday morning.


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THE SOUTHERN ILLINOISAN WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 29, 2012

PAUL NEWTON / THE SOUTHERN

A truck sits in a lake after being thrown during a tornado hit Harrisburg in the early morning Wednesday. The storm caused major damage to the town.

PROVIDED

St. Joseph Church in Ridgway was destroyed during the storm.

STEVE JAHNKE / THE SOUTHERN

This aerial photo shows some of the damage in Harrisburg.


Harrisburg Tornado  

Special Section published hours after a tornado ripped through Harrisburg, Illinois on February 29, 2012

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