By Nick Carey
WASHINGTON, Ill. Nov 19 Residents of a central
Illinois city hit by a powerful tornado worked feverishly on
Tuesday to salvage belongings from the rubble of their homes, as
an over-burdened police force tried to stop looting.
Authorities doubled to 1,000 their estimate of homes damaged
or destroyed in the fast-moving storm that hit Washington, a
town of 15,000 located 145 miles (235 km) southwest of Chicago,
on Sunday. Winds reached up to 200 miles per hour (322 km per
hour), and many houses were reduced to piles of sticks.
The storm system triggered multiple tornadoes on Sunday in
the Midwestern United States, killing at least six people in
Illinois and two in Michigan. The cost of damage is estimated at
Roads in and out of Washington were clogged on Tuesday with
pickup trucks, which residents filled with whatever they could
find that was salvageable. The sound of chainsaws cutting
through fallen trees could be heard everywhere. Incidents of
looting, and the threat of rain on Wednesday, added urgency to
Homeowner Ken Dunston said a truck had pulled up outside his
home and made off with a pile of his furniture.
"They're stealing everything they can," said Dunston. "The
next time they come through here I'll grab hold of them and call
Washington police department commander Greg Gordon said
looters are posing a huge challenge for the local force, which
has been augmented by officers from nearby Peoria and state
REBUILDING AFTER DISASTER
Diana Wara, 50, a professional cook, was trying to get her
recipes off the hard drive of her crushed computer. All that
remained of her two-story home was its foundation. Her family's
four cars were destroyed, she said.
"My whole life is on that computer," she said, struggling to
hold back tears. "We're all just lucky to be alive and we're
going to rebuild."
She has already talked to a builder, but in the meantime,
her insurance company has put up her family in an apartment, she
Mike Bochart, 40, was in church when the storm hit, so he
and his family stayed safe, while half of his home was
destroyed. He was removing what he could on Tuesday.
"Everyone has been pitching in to help, this is a good
town," Bochart said. "It's going to be a long road, but we will
Early estimates suggest that the property damage caused by
the storm could reach $1 billion, with the greatest toll in
Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky and Missouri, according to Risk
Management Solutions, a Newark, California-based company that
specializes in assessing the toll of storms and other disasters.
November tornado outbreaks are relatively rare this far
north - they are seen only about once every 10 years in this
part of the Midwest, according to Greg Carbin, meteorologist for
the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center.
Rebuilding from a November storm, as opposed to a spring
storm, poses different challenges, according to Terry Ruhland,
spokesman for the Homebuilders Association of Greater Peoria.
One problem is that foundations that are solid now may
suffer damage from winter weather while homeowners wait for
construction to begin, so foundations will need to be protected,
"Do I think people will step up to the plate and make
historic efforts? Absolutely," Ruhland said. "But it will be
very challenging due to the devastation, the weather conditions,
and the volume of work needing to be done."
Washington Mayor Gary Manier asked volunteers to stay away
for now to let people into their homes. But the town will need
help going forward.
"We're going to be here for quite a while and we're going to
need assistance," Manier said. "So please don't forget about
us." He said the town has had offers of help from as far off as
Italy and the Philippines, where residents are struggling to
recover from their own natural disaster, Typhoon Haiyan, which
authorities estimate killed more than 3,900 people after roaring
ashore on Nov. 8.
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has declared 13 counties
Of the six people killed in Illinois, authorities said one
died in Washington and three in Brookport on the Kentucky
border, where a tornado with winds up to 145 mph destroyed
dozens of mobile homes and damaged dozens of houses, garages,
storage buildings, businesses and other structures.
Two men died in Michigan in storm-related incidents.
Tornadoes also caused major damage in Indiana and lesser
damage in Ohio, according to the National Weather Service.