CHICAGO (AP) — Strong storms that swept across northern Illinois spawned several possible tornadoes, severely damaged homes and forced first responders to pull survivors from basements, officials said Tuesday.
Northern Indiana and parts of Iowa and Michigan also saw damage from possible tornadoes, with storms knocking out power to thousands of people late Monday and early Tuesday. But by Tuesday morning, the skies had cleared and the rain had moved east toward Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York.
Particularly hard hit on Monday night was a private camping resort in Sublette, Illinois, a community about 100 miles west of Chicago. Fire Chief Kevin Schultz said damage was worse than anticipated, spread across about 700 acres of the Woodhaven Association resort. Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner deployed the 80-member Illinois Task Force 1 search-and-rescue team to assist on Tuesday morning.
“At this point in time, the best words to describe it is decimated,” Schultz said Tuesday morning. “There are trailers that are in trees. There are trailers that are upside down. … It is the worst thing I’ve ever seen.”
One person was hospitalized with serious but not life-threatening injuries. Four other people described as “walking wounded” were either treated on scene or refused treatment, Schultz said, but he noted the injury count could increase.
About 70 miles southeast of the camping resort, a suspected tornado raked Coal City at about 10 p.m. Monday and damaged several subdivisions. Local resident Larry Roseland said he and his wife opened their windows so they could hear any warning sirens.
“We heard the sirens and heard this eerie sound coming,” Roseland, who also went through a tornado in Coal City two years ago, told WGN-TV. “It was really scary.”
Authorities said five people suffered minor injuries and everyone was accounted for in the city of about 5,000 people, but search crews planned to conduct a secondary search on Tuesday. The American Red Cross said about 30 people stayed at a shelter in a Coal City church, while a handful of other people stayed at a shelter in nearby Sublette.
“I do know the resiliency of this community,” Mayor Terry Halliday said Tuesday morning. “We will definitely get through this.”
The Illinois Emergency Management Agency was gathering information on the extent of the storm damage. Rauner issued a state disaster proclamation for Lee and Grundy counties to make state resources available for recovery. At the height of the storm, about 56,000 homes and businesses were without power in northern Illinois, mostly in Dixon, Sterling, Joliet and Coal City, according to Commonwealth Edison.
To the west, an estimated 40 to 50 Hy-Vee store employees and customers in the southern Iowa town of Albia took shelter in the store cooler when the storm struck Monday evening, shattering store windows and sending glass flying into a nearby neighborhood. Homes in the area lost roofs and windows as well.
In Michigan, a series of severe thunderstorms damaged homes and caused power outages.
The National Weather Service said one tornado hit about 1:30 a.m. Tuesday just outside of Manchester, southwest of Ann Arbor. Garrett Macomber told The Ann Arbor News that his farm was among those damaged.
“Half the roof is gone, it ripped out the trees, and I don’t even know about our fence,” Macomber said. “The roof is all the way out in the hay field.”
Macomber said he jumped out of bed and ran to get the four people who live at the farm into the basement as quickly as possible. “It was a ridiculous amount of wind,” he said. “It felt like the whole house was lifting off its foundation.”