Rare December tornadoes reported in central US; 1 dead

TAYLORVILLE, Ill. – Residents in central Illinois on Sunday assessed the damage after rare December tornadoes, including one the day before that was a half-mile-wide, ripped roofs off homes, downed power lines and injured at least 20 people. The severe weather in Illinois was part of a line of thunderstorms that raked areas of the … Continue reading “Rare December tornadoes reported in central US; 1 dead”

TAYLORVILLE, Ill. – Residents in central Illinois on Sunday assessed the damage after rare December tornadoes, including one the day before that was a half-mile-wide, ripped roofs off homes, downed power lines and injured at least 20 people.

The severe weather in Illinois was part of a line of thunderstorms that raked areas of the central U.S. late Friday and into Saturday, killing one person in Missouri. The National Weather Service confirmed tornadoes in Illinois, Missouri and Oklahoma.

At least three tornadoes were confirmed in northwest and southwest Arkansas, which largely caused property and structural damage. No injuries or fatalities were reported.

Peak months for tornadoes in much of the Midwest are April and June, according to the weather service. But at least 12 tornadoes were reported in Illinois on Saturday, including one in Taylorville which has been confirmed. If the majority are confirmed, that would be the most tornadoes in Illinois in a December storm since Dec. 18-19, 1957, when there were 21.

The weather service sent crews Sunday to survey the hardest-hit areas in Illinois, which included Taylorville, 25 miles (40 kilometers) southeast of Springfield.

Photographs and video from Taylorville showed several houses flattened, with residents wading into debris to salvage what they could. Some homes remained standing but with gaping holes in the roofs or with no roofs at all.

The tornado was on the ground for around 10 miles (16 kilometers) before it thundered through Taylorville, and the weather service was able to warn residents of its arrival 41 minutes before it actually struck, Chris Miller, a meteorologist at the service's Lincoln office, said in a phone interview Sunday. That advanced warning gave people critical time to take cover and may have saved lives.

Assistant Fire Chief Andy Goodall, speaking to reporters Saturday night shortly after the storm pounded the city of 11,000, said at least 100 homes had major damage, including his own, Springfield's State Journal-Register reported.

A Taylorville Memorial Hospital spokesman said 21 people, from age 9 to 97, arrived for treatment Saturday. Most were released within hours. Miller said three people remained hospitalized as of Sunday afternoon.

Miller said preliminary estimates are that the Taylorville tornado may have been an EF2, which indicates wind speeds as high as 135 mph. It could take several more days to know for sure.

The weather service said Sunday that a strong tornado that developed from severe thunderstorms Friday night touched down in Van Buren, Arkansas. It was rated an EF2. About 10 minutes later, a second weaker tornado was confirmed less than 10 miles (16 kilometers) away near the town of Rudy, Arkansas.

Damage surveys for the two tornadoes are ongoing but officials said dozens of homes were damaged.

Early Saturday morning a third tornado with estimated peak winds of 107 mph traveled about 8.5 miles (13.5 kilometers) through Spring Hill in southwest Arkansas. Its path was intermittent and mostly caused damage to trees and to some structures.

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Associated Press writer Hannah Grabenstein in Little Rock, Arkansas, also contributed to this report.

At least one dead after rare December tornadoes strike Midwest

People across the central U.S. were picking up the pieces Sunday after a line of thunderstorms spawned a series of rare December tornadoes late Friday and into Saturday.

The storms were blamed for the death of one person in Missouri, while at least 21 people were injured in central Illinois. The National Weather Service confirmed tornadoes in both states, as well as in Oklahoma and Arkansas.

The National Weather Service sent teams to Taylorville, 25 miles southeast of Springfield and areas along the Illinois River to survey damage, the Springfield Journal Register reported. Photographs and video from the town showed several houses flattened, with residents wading into debris to salvage what they could. Some homes remained standing but with gaping holes in the roofs or with no roofs at all.

The tornado was on the ground for around 10 miles before it thundered through Taylorville, and the weather service was able to warn residents of its arrival 41 minutes before it actually struck, Chris Miller, a meteorologist at the service's Lincoln office, said in a phone interview Sunday. That advanced warning gave people critical time to take cover and may have saved lives.

Joyce Morrissey sorting through the debris of her nephew Stephen Tirpak’s house in Taylorville, Ill., Sunday. The National Weather Service said multiple tornadoes touched down in central Illinois, damaging dozens of structures and injuring multiple people. (Ted Schurter/The State Journal-Register via AP)

“I was on the south side when the storm came through,” Taylorville assistant fire chief Andy Goodall said, according to the paper. “There was multiple, I would guess over 100 (homes) easily, that were damaged severely because it took a pass almost right through town. And most of those houses’ roofs are gone and significant damage, including my own.”

The 21 who were injured were from Taylorville and included a 9-year-old and a 97-year-old. Doctors said three of the injured were taken to a hospital in Springfield in serious condition, but most were released within hours.

Steven Tirpak using a chainsaw to remove tree branches that fell onto his two-story home in Taylorville, Ill., Sunday. (Ted Schurter/The State Journal-Register via AP)

Miller said preliminary estimates are that the Taylorville tornado may have been an EF2, which indicates wind speeds as high as 135 mph. It could take several more days to know for sure.

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The weather service said Sunday that a strong tornado that developed from severe thunderstorms Friday night touched down in Van Buren, Arkansas. It was rated an EF2. About 10 minutes later, a second weaker tornado was confirmed less than 10 miles away near the town of Rudy, Ark.

Damage surveys for the two tornadoes are ongoing but officials said dozens of homes were damaged.

Early Saturday morning a third tornado with estimated peak winds of 107 mph traveled about 8.5 miles through Spring Hill in southwest Arkansas. Its path was intermittent and mostly caused damage to trees and to some structures.

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No injuries or deaths were reported there.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

1 killed in southwestern Missouri as storms sweep area

AURORA, Mo. – Authorities in southwestern Missouri say strong storms that swept the region have left one person dead.

Aurora Fire Chief Robert Ward tells television station KYTV that one person inside an Aurora motel just off Highway 39 was killed as a storm passed through. Authorities have not released the person's name or details of how the death occurred. Investigators say others inside the motel escaped unharmed.

Several roads, including U.S. 60 between Aurora and Marionville, were closed because of downed power lines. A hospital in Aurora briefly lost power.

A strong line of storms in the area early Saturday led to several tornado warnings. The National Weather Service has confirmed at least one weak tornado touched down at Monett, which is about 13 miles (21 kilometers) west of Aurora. Officials say the EF-0 tornado damaged several roofs, but no injuries were reported.

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Information from: KYTV-TV, http://www.ky3.com