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Tornado Clean Up Continues in Illinois

Courtesy Andrew Pritchard and the National Weather Service
The tornado near Beardstown at 3:25 p.m. Saturday, December 1, 2018

The National Weather Service (NWS) said at least 23 tornadoes touched down Saturday in Illinois, making the outbreak the state's largest on record for December.  In west central Illinois, tornadoes were reported in Cass, McDonough, Fulton, Schuyler, and Mason counties.

Meteorologist Dan Smith of the NWS said the final tally might grow because crews continue surveying three other sites to determine if storm damage there was caused by tornadoes. 

The storms injured a number of people but no fatalities are reported.

Credit Courtesy Darrin Dunsworth
This dumpster pushed up against the Beardstown armory had been behind a building across the street. Cpt. Darrin Dunsworth said the tornado must have carried it more than 100 meters. “Someone said to me, ‘Can you imagine how much fun the raccoons inside that dumpster had?’”

The water treatment plant in Beardstown was damaged, including 3 of the 4 wells that serve the community.   

The Beardstown tornado also tore a ten foot by thirty foot hole in the roof of the building that houses the armory and park district offices, allowing rain water and wind-blown gravel to batter the building’s interior. In addition, vehicles in the armory’s motor pool were damaged. Yet, Captain Darrin Dunsworth, Commander of the Guard’s engineering company based at the armory, said they were lucky.

“I’m really grateful for the fact that it happened on a Saturday. That no one was there. We were not drilling on that weekend. And that it avoided residential areas,” said Dunsworth, who also teaches in the Department of Military Science at Western Illinois University.

Two tornadoes were reported in McDonough County along with hail up to the size of pennies. 

A touchdown near Lewistown resulted in extensive damage to homes and a winery. 

The hardest-hit community appears to be Taylorville, which is southeast of Springfield. The NWS reported that an initial survey of destruction there shows 100 homes were destroyed or sustained severe damage. 

The survey determined another 400 homes were damaged but habitable.    

The tornado that struck Taylorville was about a half mile wide, traveled 11 miles, and had top winds speed of 150 mph, classifying it as an EF-3.     

The NWS said it is unusual but not unheard of for tornadoes to strike in Illinois during December. The agency said 55 December tornadoes were reported in the state between 1950 and 2017.

Illinois Public Radio’s Sean Crawford contributed to this story.  

Rich is TSPR's News Director.