November 21, 2013 Update


Governor Pat Quinn has added six more counties as state disaster areas following visits to Washington, Diamond, Gifford, Brookport and New Minden this week. 

Quinn declared Douglas, Jasper, Pope, Wabash, Wayne and Will counties state disaster areas following violent storms and tornadoes on Sunday that affected several regions of the state.  The declaration increases the number of declared counties to 13.  On Monday, Quinn declared seven Champaign, Grundy, LaSalle, Massac, Tazewell, Washington and Woodford counties state disaster areas after severe storms generating tornadoes and high winds ripped across Illinois.

The state disaster declaration makes available a wide variety of state resources that can help affected communities respond and recover from the storms. The state of Illinois has personnel and assets that can be mobilized to help local government officials with disaster recovery, including such things as trucks, heavy equipment to remove debris, communications equipment and provide assistance with security and other public safety issues.  The state declaration is separate from a federal disaster declaration and assessment will be reviewed to see if Sunday’s tornados meet federal guidelines.

Here’s a summary of where things are as of this morning (Thursday, Nov. 21):

Coal City/Diamond Area:  The National Weather service has reported that an EF2 tornado passed through a four-mile area near the Will-Grundy County line at the northern end of the Illinois Great Rivers Conference.

Dozens of homes near the Will-Grundy County line was either flattened or heavily damaged Sunday.

Rev. Tom Logsdon, pastor of Coal City UMC, writes:

“Our EF2 tornado was bad, but we are fine. I've tried for several days to write an update for you, but come home after long days fuzzy headed and exhausted, but unable to sleep, only to get up and start it all again the next day.

“Our volunteers have been great! Thank God for UMCOR ERT training and the number of our folks who have been on mission trips, as well as those who are experienced with organizing events in the community, including large soup suppers each month and regular funeral dinners. It's been organized chaos all week, but at least our chaos has been organized. The church is stuffed with donations from one end to another and God only knows how many people who have been fed in the last couple of days. Items come in and items go out and more items come in. Our church members, people from the community, and folks from all over have pitched in and helped and continued to do so. Over 200 hundred homes in our community were damaged or destroyed, along with a number of businesses. These are my friends and neighbors but, praise God, no one was killed and only four people were injured by the storm.

“As one of my friends, whose house was damaged beyond repair, put it last night, ‘My house did its job. The siren sounded, we went to basement and, when the storm was over, we were all OK. So what if the house was damaged. My family is safe.’

“People whose own homes were damaged or destroyed immediately began checking on and helping neighbors. One family whose house was destroyed moved in with their parents so that another family whose house was destroyed could move into an empty house they otherwise would have used. Another parishioner, whose own house was damaged and whose neighbor's house was destroyed, opened their garage and served sandwiches and drinks out of it that we were able to bring in even while the road blocks were still up because we had ERT badges.

“We opened our church up quickly after the tornado because we were undamaged and on the opposite end of our little community. None of us knew what we were doing, but people just started pitching in and the supplies started rolling in. We thought people might need the church as a place to stay, but most were taken in by family and friends, so we focused on being a supply center and a place where people could come, rest, eat, and charge their cell phones. Tonight one family that has been without electricity since the storm and has been coming each evening for a place to go, food to eat, and friends to talk with were excited to tell me that they had finally gotten their electricity back on and so they had come to volunteer to help others.

“The tornado was bad, but we are fine. We are not victims, we are survivors. God is so good. We are so thankful.”

Coal City UMC is acting as a response center for disaster response. Hours for donations to be dropped off are:  8 a.m. to 4 p.m. through Friday; 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.  To inquire about donations of time and service, contact the Volunteer Call Center at 815.518.3061. This phone number is not for monetary donations or donations of goods.

A Facebook page has been established as a help desk for the disaster:

Pekin: The National Weather Service has confirmed that an EF2 tornado formed just west of the Illinois River and slammed into Pekin’s north side with wind speeds of 100 to 135 mph.

Technically, one tornado cell became two tornados when it dissipated for three to four miles along its path from Pekin, then reformed in southwest East Peoria and expanded as it continued northeast into Washington, a NWS meteorologist said Wednesday.

“There was enough of a break to call it two tornadoes,” said Chris Miller of the NWS Lincoln facility.

It dissipated east of Parkway Drive, and returned after a few miles to strike East Peoria “at EF-2 or 3” level, Miller said.

“It ramped up to EF-4 in the Farmdale district” in East Peoria’s largely rural far east side just as it entered Washington, Miller said.

Utility workers restored power and gas by Wednesday evening to almost all Pekin, East Peoria and Washington households able to receive them, three days after tornadoes ripped through the cities.

Crews from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are expected to begin tornado-damage assessments in central Illinois Thursday.

FEMA assessors will visit the hardest-hit areas in the Pekin-Washington region and start to build the case for a federal disaster declaration. After this assessment is completed a report will be submitted to the federal government to determine whether a federal disaster is declared and federal funds provided to victims of the storm.

“Local officers will help direct us to the areas where the most severe damage is because those are the numbers we need to document as part of a request for federal assistance,” Patti Thompson, communications manager for the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, said.

Crews will not visit every home affected by the storm and will not deal directly with every homeowner. Thompson stressed that whether property owners speak with a FEMA representative during the assessment process won’t affect their eligibility for any assistance application.

“If they happen to be around they might be asked questions, particularly if they have homeowner’s insurance, because FEMA won’t cover anything that insurance already covers,” Thompson said. “If people don’t see us or don’t know if we went by their house, that’s not quite as important because anybody who had any kind of damage at all would be able to apply for FEMA assistance if we actually get the disaster declaration.”

Local authorities restricted access to damaged areas during a preliminary assessment for safety and accountability issues. Access will again be restricted to damaged areas beginning Thursday, but FEMA’s assessments have no effect on that policy.

Heavy equipment will be brought into the neighborhoods to remove debris. The area is expected to reopen this weekend.

100 homes were damaged in the storm, 43 destroyed or uninhabitable.  Two families from Pekin Grace UMC were affected.  Cleanup continues and the community is still under a curfew. Our current information is that no teams are being allowed entrance at this time.

Washington:  Utility workers restored power and gas by Wednesday evening to almost all Pekin, East Peoria and Washington households able to receive them, three days after tornadoes ripped through the cities.

Crossroads UMC is serving as the community’s nerve center for disaster response.  The congregation has cancelled all church activities for the immediate future with all of its staff and resources devoted to providing disaster response. Beginning Friday, the church will be serving a free noon meal each day after having served three meals daily since Monday.

The Red Cross is also sheltering 28 people in the building.

Various agencies, including Ameren, Verizon, the Secretary of State’s office and various insurance companies have all established tables in a converted all-purpose room to provide “one-stop shopping” with disaster response.  Medical personnel are also on-hand to provide basic medical care.

The Heartland Chapter, Salvation Army is coordinating donations of materials and supplies.

A decision on allowing residents back into affected areas on Friday will be made. They will be allowed back into the area from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Approved volunteers will be able to assist residents then, with an emphasis on moving debris to curbs in preparation for the second round of debris removal. Residents won’t be allowed in the affected areas Monday and possibly Tuesday.

Although volunteers have yet to be given the go-ahead, response teams must register at the Washington Chamber of Commerce through AmeriCorps, which is coordinating disaster response teams. Because of the devastation, most of the homes are destroyed; no building contractors are being allowed in until cleanup is complete.

East Peoria:  Utility workers restored power and gas by Wednesday evening to almost all Pekin, East Peoria and Washington households able to receive them, three days after tornadoes ripped through the cities.

East Peoria First UMC is part of an ecumenical response, serving as a Red Cross Shelter. Rev. Mary Arnold said much of the church’s effort has been in listing to the stories of victims and distributing materials and supplies as well as gathering information which will assist caseworkers later.

Glad Tidings Assembly of God is serving as the center for volunteers and the Baptist Church is managing the supply donations at the community’s Expo Center.

Gifford:  Gov. Pat Quinn announced on Tuesday that the Federal Emergency Management Agency will begin damage assessments in Gifford and several other locations devastated by Sunday’s tornadoes on Thursday.

UMCOR-trained Early Response Teams from the Iroquois River and Vermilion River districts began their work Wednesday in assisting residents in cleanup and sorting of items from damaged homes.  More than 30 homes were destroyed in Gifford.  No confirmed deaths, four injuries and 200 homes damaged.

County Health Care and Rehab Center in Gifford is a shelter. Power is still out in Gifford, so a generator is being run at the Lutheran Church in Gifford where soup and sandwiches are being served. Because of the potential of downed power lines and gas leaks, the town is still closed to general access.

Rantoul First UMC has an emergency drop-off center in the Gathering Place, operating from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.  The church has already received food, water, cleaning and hygiene supplies, diapers, toilet paper, blankets and clothing.  There has been an immediate call for plastic totes (containers with lids) for families trying to save belongings from damaged homes in Gifford.  Totes and all supplies can go to Rantoul First UMC. 

St. Elmo:  The National Weather Service has confirmed that an EF2 tornado winds up to 120 mph caused extensive damage in the St. Elmo area.  In a 10-minute period, a twister that the National Weather Service estimated to be 200 yards wide caused severe damage to close to 20 homes, uprooted large diameter trees and knocked down power lines in that area.

The NWS said that the twister touched down 4.6 miles southwest of St. Elmo and headed northeast, finally dissipating 6.9 miles northeast of town.

The Fayette County EMA has estimated 17 homes as total losses. There was also damage near Lake Nellie and the St. Elmo Country Club area.  Three homes were destroyed Sunday in St. Elmo in an area around Bail’s Lake just north of the community.   The St. Elmo Ministerial Alliance is having a fundraiser Saturday to help the three families who lost their homes, which included one United Methodist family.  Three other families at St. Elmo First UMC also sustained damage. The fundraiser will be at the St. Elmo Christian Church beginning at 4 p.m.  with a prayer and worship service at 6 p.m. Anyone that wishes to assist can call St. Elmo First UMC at 618-829-3364.

Information will be given to Gov. Quinn, and he will determine whether there is enough damage to warrant the county being declared a disaster area.

New Minden:  The National Weather Service reported Tuesday that there were two tornados in the New Minden area Sunday.  The first, an EF4, with winds of between 166 and 200 mph, hit New Minden and a house near Hoyleton.  A second one, an EF1, developed from the EF4 (a common occurrence according to weather spotters), with winds of between 86 and 110 mph, cut a path through Washington County and into the Centralia area.

St. John's Lutheran Church in New Minden tentatively plans to hold its weekend services in the basement of the church's school building, the church's pastor said Tuesday.  The church suffered heavy damage to its roof, and lost its steeple, when a tornado moved through town.  Services are 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. Sunday.

No decisions have been made yet regarding repairing or rebuilding the church and the church’s priority is on helping the 10 local families whose homes were destroyed or severely damaged. Gift cards are being collected for the families. They can be dropped off during the next day or so at the school building, which is serving as sort of a command post, or can be mailed to: St. John's Lutheran Church, 15538 State Route 127, Nashville, IL, 62263.

An elderly man and his sister were killed in the tornados.

Mississippi River District Superintendent Gary Wilson and Rev. Barb Powers, pastor at Bunker Hill UMC, visited New Minden Tuesday. They visited with Lutheran Church leaders who are coordinating the disaster response and offered assistance.

Brookport and Unionville:   The National Weather Service has indicated that an EF3, with estimated wind speeds of up to 145 mph slammed Unionville and Brookport on the Ohio River. The path of destruction continued across the Ohio River. A total of 50 mobile homes were destroyed, many blown 100 feet or more. Two fatalities were reported in Brookport and one in Unionville.

It was also reported that the same tornado or a different one touchdown in Paducah, Ky., at a uranium enrichment plant.  No hazardous materials were released from the plant.

Rev. Ed Hoke and Rev. Pete Ryan are coordinating the United Methodist response in Brookport and Unionville. Residents from Brookport and Unionville began registering for assistance at Unity School Tuesday.

Volunteer teams began working Wednesday morning.  Due to the limited geographic area of damage, only trained Early Response Team members from the Cache River District are asked to report at this time, registering at Unity School. It will later be determined if additional volunteers are necessary.

The following items have been requested by Illinois VOAD. These donations are being received at the First Baptist Church in Metropolis. Current needed items are:

100 buckets

100 gallons of bleach

200 totes of various sizes

50 sledge hammers

100 framing hammers

200 pairs of work gloves

100 rolls of plastic

Sanitizers and anti-bacterial cleaners