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Tornadoes Cause Damage, Close Roads in Central, Northern Illinois

May 10, 1995

CANTRALL, Ill. (AP) _ Tornadoes cut across a wide swath of northern and central Illinois on Tuesday, scattering trees like twigs, flipping big-rig trucks and ripping the roofs off homes and a school.

Nearly every home in this town of 125 people 10 miles north of Springfield was damaged, but no serious injuries were reported. Elsewhere, there were minor injuries, mainly cuts and bruises.

``The sky was really yellow, and the dust was just whirling,″ said Sally Prohaska, one of the few people in Centrall whose home was not damaged by a tornado that hit late in the afternoon. ``I just knew it wouldn’t hit my house and I thanked God for that.″

The tornado ripped the roofs off an elementary school auditorium and kindergarten classroom building, but schoolchildren had already gone home for the day.

It also downed power lines and a gas leak sparked several fires, said John Mitchell, director of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency.

Mitchell said the tornadoes touched down in a six-county area covering hundreds of square miles of central and northern Illinois.

``We do have some overturned vehicles, trees down, lines down,″ in all of the counties, he said.

Six tractor-trailer rigs and nearly a dozen cars overturned on Interstate 55, south of Springfield, said state police Lt. Mike Beagles. No motorists were hurt.

State troopers closed the interstate’s northbound lanes for several hours and turned traffic back toward Springfield.

In northwestern Illinois, a tornado that touched down three miles east of Fulton flattened several buildings, said Teri Meinen of the Whiteside County Sheriff’s Department. She said some people there suffered cuts and bruises.

``We’ve had several buildings leveled, and they’re lying in the highway,″ Meinen said.

In Salisbury, a mobile home was overturned, and some minor injuries _ mainly cuts and brusies _ were reported.

Emergency workers had trouble getting to Cantrall because power lines and trees were blocking the highways.

Charles Jones, chief deputy at the Menard County sheriff’s office, said he saw two tornadoes hopscotch for about 30 minutes. ``They’d touch the ground and go back up,″ he said.

As many as five tornadoes may have been on the ground at once, said Mark Metzger, a dispatcher with the Menard County Sheriff’s Department. At least six homes in a subdivision south of Athens were reported destroyed.

Alan Cole, who runs a gas station near Elkhart, said he saw ``a bunch of farms″ with damage.

In the Peoria and Pekin areas north of Springfield, strong winds and large hail were reported.

``There are numerous cars overturned, power lines down and damage to farm buildings, especially in the South Pekin area,″ said Master Sgt. Steven Johnson. ``There’s been an enormous amount of hail. There were some grapefruit-sized hailstones near Pekin.″

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