Two deaths now confirmed from tornadoes in Illinois – Chicago Tribune
Gov. Bruce Rauner visited tornado-ravaged north central Illinois on Friday, declaring DeKalb and Ogle counties state disaster areas and announcing that a second person had been killed by the storms.
“Unfortunately her body was found just relatively recently this morning,” Rauner said at a news conference at the Flagg Center Community Church of God in Flagg. “We hope and pray that is all the fatalities we’ve got. … We believe now we know the extent of this terrible loss. Frankly we’re very blessed more people were not hurt. This was a devastating storm.”
The state disaster declaration makes available a wide variety of state resources that can help affected communities respond to and recover from the storms. The state also has mobilized personnel and assets to help local government officials with disaster recovery, including conservation police officers, communication equipment and light towers.
In addition, damage assessment flights have started around the hardest-hit areas. Liaisons from several state agencies are working with the Illinois Emergency Management Agency to coordinate the use of state resources to help local governments in the affected areas.
All morning long, rescue crews sifted through blocks of splintered homes after at least two tornadoes tore through the towns of Fairdale and Rochelle and the surrounding area near Rockford.
“We can rebuild,” said Ogle County Sheriff Brian VanVickle, whose own home was destroyed. “We built once. We can rebuild.”
Fairdale, a town of 150, was the most devastated. All 71 buildings sustained some damage and 17 homes were knocked off their foundations, according to Kirkland Community Fire Chief Chad Connell.
Geraldine Schultz, 67, was killed in her home on Main Street. “She was a sweet lady,” a relative said.
Schultz was found in the upstairs of her home after the storms hit. “She was removed from the home by family members, and I took her from there,” DeKalb County Coroner Dennis Miller said at a news conference Friday morning as helicopters buzzed overhead.
A second woman, Jacklyn K. Klosa, 69, was found dead in her home during a second search in Fairdale on Friday morning, according to the DeKalb County coroner’s office. Miller said the two women lived close to each other.
At least 11 other people were taken to hospitals, according to Kirkland Community Fire District Chief Chad Connell. One of them was listed in serious condition.
Fairdale does not have a siren system, but anyone watching TV or who had a cellphone should have been aware of the oncoming storm, Connell said.
Officials have asked residents to stay away until the area is deemed safe. Firefighters from three or four area departments already have done at least two searches of all 71 stricken structures.
They do not believe more survivors will be found in the destroyed homes, Connell said. Teams are searching debris in fields outside of town to ensure no one was swept away, said DeKalb County Sheriff Roger Scott.
Officials said a few residents are unaccounted for, based on information from families who told officials they were unable to reach them. Anyone who has left the area but has not contacted family was asked to call the DeKalb Sheriff’s Office.
“Because of, obviously, the devastation that we’re dealing with here, we could have people that are just wandering around, just calling back family members. So they come up as missing,” Connell said.
Connell asked volunteers to not come out to help crews at this point. “There is all kinds of booby traps. We don’t know what is out there,” Connell said. “We have a plan, we have a team. It is a very meticulous operation.
“Although they mean well, we would like for them to stay off-site,” he said. “Do not come out here to help us. We have a plan here set in place that we need to stick to.”
Rochelle, about 20 miles southwest of Fairdale, also was in the path of the pounding storms.
“We actually all kind of thought it was going to miss us,” said resident Lindsey Manning. “And we started getting calls from people … that tornadoes were coming our way, and we quickly went down to the basement and could feel the tornado right over our house and came up to this.
“The houses right across the street from me, you wouldn’t even be able to see,” she told a WGN-TV reporter. “Now you just see trees in the distance. I feel like it’s a bad dream, something I’d be watching on the news somewhere else, not in my neighborhood.”
Authorities were preparing for an aerial sweep of the area Friday to complete a third search for anyone who might be injured or trapped, VanVickle said. So far, no residents in the county have been reported missing. Thirty homes in the area had been destroyed, he said.
But Rochelle and Ogle County have not reported any fatalities. Three people were transported by ambulance to Rochelle Hospital, but their injuries were not life-threatening.
“Everybody’s safe, and things can be replaced,” VanVickle said. “That’s what’s important to us.”
The Red Cross was on the scene to provide assistance, but VanVickle said no one had requested housing as of Friday morning, something he said speaks of the close-knit community.
“It’s a small, rural community, so everyone’s probably staying with a friend or with family,” VanVickle said.
In Fairdale, rescue crews were resuming their work early Friday after being in a “holding pattern” while waiting for daylight.
Speaking to reporters just after midnight, Rockford fire Chief Matthew Knott said every home in Fairdale had been searched twice to ensure that no one was missed. Every home was affected by the storm, officials said, with some crushed down to their foundation and others left standing with no damage except broken windows.
Knott described the twister that touched down in Fairdale at 7:15 p.m. Thursday as a powerful but slow-moving tornado.
Scott said several people left the area before the storm hit, so authorities were still working to locate some residents.
The National Weather Service said at the “very least” two tornadoes cut a 50-mile-wide swath through north central Illinois. But there were likely more, based on trained storm spotters, radar and environmental evidence. The weather service was deploying three teams to the area to survey the damage and track the paths of the tornadoes. That survey could last into Saturday.
The deadly tornado left a path of destruction from near Franklin Grove in Lee County to north of Rochelle and Hillcrest into northwest DeKalb County and southern Boone County and lastl to near Harvard in McHenry County, according to the weather service. A second tornado’s path stretched from near the Rockford airport into Cherry Valley in Winnebago County and then crossed into Boone County.