Survivors of Midwest tornado sift through wreckage
Updated: 2013-11-19 03:33
A car is seen inside a destroyed business window front among the destruction caused by a tornado that touched down in Washington, Illinois, November 18, 2013. [Photo/Agencies]
WASHINGTON, Ill. - Some residents of Washington, Illinois, picked through the remains of their tornado-flattened homes on Monday, recovering what they could a day after a series of twisters pounded the Midwest, killing eight people.
Bits of American flags and insulation from destroyed houses clung to trees that had been stripped of most of their branches and remaining leaves by the Washington twister. Spawned by a fast-moving storm system, the tornado had winds of up to 200 miles per hour (322 kph).
Six people died in Illinois in storm-related accidents and Michigan officials on Monday reported two new deaths.
Police were keeping residents from returning to the storm-hit area, where buildings were destroyed and cars turned upside down, out of concern that people could be injured while attempting to retrieve possessions.
Ryan Bowers, 33, and his wife Andrea, 32, briefly returned to retrieve a family Bible and pink baby rattle that was their 2-1/2-year-old daughter Sydney's favorite toy.
"We're back here just to get any idea of what everything looks like," Ryan Bowers said. "We have what's important. My wife and daughter are OK. That's all I can ask for."
The couple, their daughter and the family's dogs, hid in their basement when the storm roared through Washington. They emerged to find their neighborhood destroyed.
As they picked through the wreckage of their home, a police officer approached and told them they had to leave.
Mayor Gary Manier said authorities were keeping evacuated residents away out of concern that the remaining structures were dangerously unstable.
"I know it's frustrating for people," Manier said amid piles of rubble. "I'd be frustrated. I'd want to be looking for pictures."
Manier estimated that 250 to 500 homes had been destroyed by the tornado, rated as the second-most powerful magnitude of twister, which hit the city east of Peoria with winds of 166 to 200 miles (267-322 km) per hour.
The storm killed three people in Massac Country, two in Washington County and one in the city of Washington, in Tazewell County, said Patti Thompson of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency.
Illinois State Police spokesman Dustin Pierce said about 120 people were injured in Washington.
Rescue workers in central Michigan found the body of a 59-year-old man entangled in downed power lines on Sunday night. The man went outside to investigate a noise, according to Shiawassee County Sheriff's Department Lieutenant David Kirk.
A 21-year-old man was also killed on Sunday night when a tree fell on his car in the central Michigan town of Leslie, said Jackson County Sheriff Steven Rand. It was unclear whether the man struck the tree while driving or if high winds in the area toppled the tree, Rand said.