Tornadoes Cause Damage, Close Roads in Central, Northern Illinois
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) _ Tornadoes touched down across a wide swath of central and northern Illinois on Tuesday, flipping over big-rig trucks and destroying homes. It wasn’t immediately clear how many people were hurt.
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 reported hurt, although one witness said, ``It looks like a war zone down here.″
State troopers closed the northbound lanes of I-55 north of Springfield and were turning traffic back toward the central Illinois city.
In Salisbury, a mobile home was overturned, and some minor injuries _ mainly cuts and brusies _ were reported.
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 also suffered cuts and bruises.
``We’ve had several buildings leveled, and they’re lying in the highway,″ Meinen said.
In the Springfield area, about a dozen buildings, including a school, were damaged in the small town of Cantrall, said John Mitchell, director of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency. Several fires were ignited by a gas leak, and three farm buildings were destroyed, Mitchell said.
``We don’t have any confirmed injuries at this time,″ he said.
Emergency workers had trouble getting to the community about 10 miles north of Springfield because power lines and trees were blocking the highways.
State police Master Sgt. Heinz Mueller said he was at home about three miles from Cantrall when he saw a funnel cloud approaching the town of 125 people.
``It sure was moving slow. It took about 45 minutes for it to move about a half mile,″ he said.
Alan Cole, who runs a gas station near Elkhart, said he saw ``a bunch of farms″ with damage.
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.
``We have multiple completely destroyed houses. Utility poles are down. Power lines are down,″ Metzger said.
Mitchell said 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.
In the Peoria and Pekin areas north of Springfield, strong winds and large hail were reported.
``There’s been an enormous amount of hail. There were some grapefruit-sized hailstones near Pekin,″ said state police Master Sgt. Steven Johnson.