FAIRDALE, Ill. (AP) – A tornado hit the tiny northern Illinois town of Fairdale, killing one person, injuring seven and sweeping homes off their foundations, as part of a storm system that pummeled a large swath of the country.
A 67-year-old woman was found dead inside her home, DeKalb County coroner Dennis Miller said at a news conference early Friday. Seven others were taken to area hospitals for injuries.
In Fairdale, an unincorporated town of about 200 residents about 80 miles northwest of Chicago, “17 structures have been determined to be destroyed,” Matthew Knott, division chief for the Rockford Fire Department, told The Associated Press. He added that the total could fluctuate. “All of the others have sustained damage of some sort,” he said.
The town’s power was out early Friday, and everyone had been evacuated. A shelter was set up at a nearby high school. The Red Cross and Salvation Army were assisting.
Authorities said that they were fairly confident there were no more victims among the debris but that they would be working Friday to account for every single resident, including those who may have left town before the storm.
The National Weather Service tweeted around 7 p.m. that a tornado was on the ground in nearby Rochelle and urged residents to seek shelter immediately. Authorities said Fairdale does not have outdoor warning sirens.
Kirkland Community Fire District Chief Chad Connell said he watched the tornado move across the area from his porch. Asked to describe it, he was at a loss of words, saying only “it was big” as he shook his head.
“I’ve never seen anything like it in my life,” he continued.
Approximately 20 additional homes were severely damaged or destroyed in Ogle County, Sheriff Brian Van Vickle said in a news conference. But no deaths or significant injuries were reported. Ogle County is adjacent to DeKalb County.
Van Vickle said 12 people were trapped in the basement of Grubsteakers, a Rochelle restaurant that collapsed during the storm.
One of those rescued from the restaurant, Raymond Kramer, 81, told Chicago’s WLS-TV that he was trapped with 11 others in the storm cellar for 90 minutes. They were freed only after emergency crews removed debris that had fallen over them. He said none of those rescued was injured.
“No sooner did we get down there, when it hit the building and laid a whole metal wall on top of the doors where we went into the storm cellar,” Kramer said. “When the tornado hit, we all got a dust bath. Everyone in there got shattered with dust and debris falling out of the rafters.”
The tornado was part of a storm that tracked across at least five counties, according to the Weather Service.
Radar and reports from trained spotters also show the severe weather produced “at the very least” one other tornado in northern Illinois, the Weather Service said.
Three damage survey teams will assess the areas tomorrow to determine the exact location and magnitude of the tornadoes.
The severe weather, the region’s first widespread bout, forced the cancellation of more than 850 flights at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and dozens of others at the city’s Midway International Airport.
The National Weather Service’s “enhanced risk” area had stretched from northeast Texas to Michigan, Wisconsin and across the upper Midwest. Forecasters say Philadelphia, Washington and other parts of the Atlantic coast could see the same weather patterns Friday, including Augusta, Georgia, where the Masters golf tournament is taking place through the weekend.
A severe thunderstorm that brought high winds and rain through East Texas on Thursday night damaged the roof of a nursing home in Longview, causing its evacuation. No injuries were immediately reported. Thousands were without power in the region.
Earlier Thursday, the Davenport, Iowa, office of the Weather Service said it had received multiple reports of tornadoes in Scott and Clinton counties in the far eastern part of the state. At least one tornado had touched down earlier Thursday evening in rural Donahue, about 15 miles north of Davenport. The Weather Service had no reports of injuries from those storms.
Minor injuries were reported Thursday in central Missouri when storms toppled trees, utility poles and billboards.
McCann reported from Chicago. Associated Press writers Don Babwin and Michael Tarm also contributed to this report from Chicago.
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