- Tornado which touched down Thursday destroyed 17 buildings – a third of the total – in tiny Fairdale, Illlinois
- Geraldine M Schultz, 67, and Jacklyn K. Klosa, 69 were killed, while around 12 people were also injured
- Coroner said Klosa took shelter in her shower and was found clutching her purse
- 14 people sheltering in a restaurant basement in nearby Rochelle were trapped when the eatery collapsed
- Six Illinois counties were ravaged by two separate tornadoes – officials are currently assessing the damage
- Roofless homes, overturned cars, tattered flags and streets flooded with debris could be seen Friday morning
- More than 900 flights at Chicago O’Hare International Airport were scrapped due to the bad weather
- Meteorologists expect severe weather to swing east today, where thunderstorms are due from New York to Texas
Daily Mail Reporter
00:16 EST, 11 April 2015
01:51 EST, 11 April 2015
Residents of northern Illinois hit hard by a devastating tornado system were busy Friday digging through the rubble and picking up the pieces, as loved ones mourned the loss of two friends killed in the disaster.
Jacklyn Klosa, 69, was found Friday morning inside what was left of her Fairdale home, not far from where Geraldine Schultz, 67, died Thursday night when the tornado bore down on their rural hamlet.
The storm cut through the region about 80 miles west of Chicago, injuring more than a dozen and ripping buildings from their foundations.
Officials reported that 17 of the 50 buildings in the town of Fairdale were completely destroyed, while the other 33 have all been damaged in some way.
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Stars and stripes: Firefighters tie an American flag to a fallen tree limb at dawn Friday after a deadly tornado destroyed much of the town of Fairdale, Illinois, the previous night
Four-legged survivor: A dog is rescued from a home in Fairdale that was destroyed by a tornado system
Victim: Geraldine Schultz, right, was found dead in her home in the wake of the storm. Pictured left is a tornado which struck the nearby city of Rochelle
Digging out: Terry Dickow helps clean out John Whitaker’s destroyed home outside of Flagg Center, Illinois
Warm embrace: John Whitaker, left, looks on as Jean Van Hise and Mary Kay Merema hug outside his destroyed home in the Cherry Hill subdivision outside of Flagg Center Friday
Lost and found: Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, left, consoles Ogle County Sheriff Brian VanVickle, center, after a news conference at Flagg Center Community Church of God in Flagg Center. Meanwhile, Candy Trudell (right) finds a guitar in the wreckage of her home on IL-64
Officials reported that 17 of the 50 buildings in the town of Fairedale were completely destroyed, while the other 33 have all been damaged in some way
Shattered: The restaurant Grubstakers was severely damaged by a tornado, which had left a dozen people trapped in the basement
Schultz, known as ‘Geri,’ and remembered by neighbors in the community of about 150 people as kind-hearted, hosted annual Christmas parties and made a point of driving Klosa to clinics for medical treatment. Klosa, known as ‘Jackie,’ was described by friends as a friendly and quick-witted woman who spoke her mind.
The county coroner said Klosa, who had no basement, took shelter in her shower; she was found clutching her purse.
Klosa ‘was just one of the most friendly people in the world, a wonderful mother and a wonderful friend,’ said Les Bellah, mayor of neighboring Kirkland, recalling the ‘big ol’ hug’ he got from her recently but also how she’d ‘let you know’ if she was upset with you. ‘You never had to wonder what she was thinking.’
At least two tornadoes touched down in the six-county vicinity. Most of the injuries weren’t considered serious. To the south in Ogle County, no one was injured although the tornado system caused severe damage to roughly 30 buildings in Rochelle and others in Flagg Township, according to Sherriff Brian VanVickle – who lost his own home.
Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner declared both Ogle and DeKalb counties as disaster areas, facilitating the use of state resources in the recovery efforts.
‘We are very blessed that more people were not hurt. This was a devastating storm,’ Rauner said in the town of Flagg after touring the damage.
National Weather Service meteorologist Jamie Enderlen said at least one tornado touched down near Fairdale and was initially rated an EF4, meaning it was capable of producing winds up to 200mph. Damage survey teams were working Friday to officially determine how long tornadoes stayed on the ground, their strength and extent of the damage.
Meteorologist Matt Friedlein said the storms and cold front headed northeast, dumping snow in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and sweeping across the Ohio Valley overnight.
In Illinois, Fairdale was the hardest hit, though the storm also collapsed buildings in surrounding towns, including a restaurant in Rochelle from which a dozen people had to be dug out of a storm cellar. At least several individual farms near Fairdale were also struck.
All that’s left: Debris, including the frame of a car with two of the wheels mud-caked still intact, lay in a field off of IL-64
Upside down: Crews search through the town of Fairdale for unaccounted people as a car rests on its roof in the background
Mind-boggling force: Metal is wrapped around a tree trunk on IL-64 after a tornado came through the previous night
Hardest hit: Trees, power lines and debris lay strewn on the ground in Fairdale, posing a safety hazard
View from the top: In this aerial photo, emergency personnel are seen in the small hamlet of Fairdale, where most of the buildings were destroyed or damaged
Heap of debris: A destroyed house on East Kuehl Court west of Rochelle is seen on Friday
Swept away: Houses and property in ruin the morning after a tornado swept through the town the previous day in Fairdale
Fairdale has no village government, no school, no cable TV and no major businesses. Some residents kept horses in town; one family found one of its horses dead amid the debris Friday afternoon.
Children are bused to nearby Kirkland, where classes were canceled Friday. Gas lines to most other communities in the area also don’t reach Fairdale – meaning residents relied on tanks of propane, the first thing that survivors smelled when they emerged from their shattered homes Thursday night.
‘The rent was cheap over there,’ Bellah said. ‘It was unincorporated and people, they liked to live there because they didn’t have to put up with a lot of “government bull crap,” so to speak.’
Kirkland firefighter Carl Bunder said there had already been an outpouring of help, with people calling in from all over the region offering to lend trucks, chain saws or tractors.
All Fairdale homes were evacuated, in part, because of a lack of electricity. But trees, power lines and debris lay strewn on the ground, posing a safety hazard. Roofs from buildings were missing. Metal siding from barns were wrapped around trees.
Taking stock of devastation: Michael West surveys the damage of his mother’s home on IL-64
Working together: Dani Hurst, 15, left, helps friend Alexandra VanVickle, 16, with a bag flapping in the wind while Alexandra’s mother, Marla VanVickle, shovels debris into a bag at their home west of Rochelle
Cross-section: A man walks along a damaged home in Rochelle with one of its side walls missing, exposing a wooden bed standing intact inside
Hard hit: Remains of Ogle County Sheriff Brian VanVickle’s home are removed from the Cherry Hill subdivision outside of Flagg Center
Spilled out: Remnants of a refrigerator, including a full soda bottle, relish and eggs, from a home on IL-64
Hoovered up: Joe Benedetto, 55, who lives just outside Fairdale, saw the tornado roll into the community and likened the sound to ‘a giant vacuum cleaner’
Crews spent Thursday night and Friday going through the wreckage looking for missing residents, but authorities expressed confidence by the afternoon that they’d accounted for everyone.
Residents gathered Friday at a roadblock a mile from town, eager to check the damage to their homes. Police said it was too dangerous, and authorities said residents would likely be able to return by Saturday.
Al Zammuto, a 60-year-old machinist, was among those trying to get back in. He recalled the evening before when he and other residents received cellphone alerts at 6:45 p.m. – the town doesn’t have sirens – but he dismissed it, as previous warnings hadn’t amounted to anything.
Then his windows exploded.
Joe Benedetto, 55, who lives just outside Fairdale, saw the tornado roll into the community and likened the sound to ‘a giant vacuum cleaner.’ While his house was spared major damage, powerful winds launched a single branch, like a spear, though his kitchen wall.
Zammuto, in Fairdale itself, took cover as the severe weather struck. Bricks were torn off the side of his home. Minutes later he stepped outside, and he said the town ‘looked like a landfill’ and the sounds were haunting.
Path of destruction: The track of the deadly tornado which destroyed Fairdale, Illinois, yesterday, can be clearly seen in this aerial footage, which shows the town from the north
Before: This is how Fairdale looked from above when it was still standing
Chaos unfolds: The above images shows one corner of Fairdale before and after the tornado hit. A fleet of news vans can also be seen in the latest shot
Path of chaos: In the after image, the track of the tornado can be clearly made out in the damage it did on the large fields
Ripped apart: The storm’s powerful winds tore up homes directly in its path, leaving hardly anything standing. Homes towards the edge of its pathway were still badly damaged
Small town: Fairdale, a community of fewer than 200 people, was left a wreck by the swirling winds
Morning after: This was one scene of destruction this morning in Fairdale, Illinois, where around a third of the buildings in town were destroyed by Thursday evening’s tornado
Deadly storm: A tornado which ravaged Fairdale, Illinois, last night killed a woman, and left dozens of others trapped in their basements under collapsing buildings
‘People were screaming and yelling,’ he said. ‘People were in total shock.’
Sue Meyer, an artist who lived a few houses away and knew Klosa and Schultz, also had no basement. She took refuge under some stairs and survived even as her roof collapsed in on her.
Meyer moved to Fairdale for small-town serenity, but her community was unrecognizable moments after the weather struck. She described an ‘eerie’ scene of people wandering everywhere, and said she was so disoriented in the chaos it was impossible to know who may have survived.
She learned only later, on the news, that her nearby neighbors Klosa and Schultz had not.
Rescue teams were scrambling to account for the residents of the pummeled community. One commented: ‘It was like a bomb went off.’ One woman caught in the storm said: ‘The house shook like Dorothy in Wizard of Oz, and when it got quiet we peeked out the door and there was nothing there.’
The true extent of destruction wrought by the Midwestern tornadoes became clear as the severe weather risk swung east. Forecasters predicted thunderstorms and high winds from New York City to Florida, with the entire Gulf Coast also at risk – though more tornadoes were thought to be unlikely.
At least two tornadoes tore across Illinois on Thursday, churning through six counties in the center of the state, according to the National Weather Service.
Three teams of storm surveyors have been dispatched to the area to asses the extent of the damage. Aerial footage of the devastation was published Friday by the WGN news station.
Tumbledown: This home was in ruins Friday morning following the chaos of the tornado, which trapped some people in their basements
Wreckage: This home was left without much of a roof, while two cars outside were also wrecked by the strong winds
Upstairs: Roof beams hung precariously and wiring and insulation was exposed in this home, which stood little chance against the raging storms
Downstairs: Furniture in the home was trashed as families were sent streaming into the streets, their homes in tatters, after the storm cleared
Small town chaos: A tattered Stars and Stripes clings to a leaning flagpole outside this damaged home in Fairdale
Smashed: The glass in this car was battered by debris, leaving it a beaten-up wreck in the aftermath of Faridale’s tornado
Matthew Knott, the area’s fire chief, said: ‘This town is absolutely devastated.’
Schultz, a married mother of five and a grandmother, was found dead on the second floor of her home, according to an early-morning news conference with the DeKalb County coroner. Her husband suffered minor injuries. A ‘secondary search’ revealed Klosa, who lived on the same block as Schultz.
The town’s power was out early Friday, and everyone had been evacuated with a shelter set up at a nearby high school. The Red Cross and Salvation Army were assisting. The risk of damaging storms further east on Friday was reported by the Weather Channel.
Authorities were confident there were no more victims among the debris but were still searching Friday to account for every single resident. Illinois governor Bruce Rauner announced that he will visit the ravaged region.
The National Weather Service confirmed at 7pm Thursday the tornado was on the ground and urged residents on Twitter to ‘seek shelter immediately if in the path of this dangerous storm.’
Fairdale was the worst-hit town in the area, but in nearby Rochelle, Ogle County’s Sheriff’s dispatchers also reported multiple injures and damage.
Some of the victims of the storm: Stefanie and Matthew Hurley look at the wreckage on the IL-72 with their family after the tornado yesterday
Sheriff Brian Van Vickle said in a news conference that about 20 homes there were severely damaged or destroyed, but no deaths or significant injuries were reported. Ogle County is next to DeKalb County.
The tornadoes were produced by so-call supercell thunderstorms, which are responsible for some of the nation’s most destructive weather.
THE RAREST OF THUNDERSTORMS
A supercell is the rarest and often most severe type of thunderstorm.
What makes the storm unique is its deep and persistent rotating updraft called a mesocyclone.
They have the potential to cause severe weather, including powerful, damaging winds, very large hail, and violent tornadoes.
Robin Biggs, an employee at the Super 8 motel in nearby Rochelle, said she took video of the storm, which she said ‘took everything out in its path.’
‘I have lived her 18 years and I have never seen a tornado that big or stay on the ground that long,’ she said.
‘What we [usually] have is a small one touching the ground and going right back up, but this just stayed down and went all the way across the horizon.’
Koleen Kessen, who works at the Comfort Inn & Suites in Rochelle, said she went outside and spotted the tornado a few miles away after hearing sirens.
She said hotel guests told her the tornado leveled a restaurant.
The Daily Chronicle in DeKalb, citing fire officials, reported that 14 people who had been trapped inside Grubsteakers restaurant in Rochelle but were later rescued. The newspaper reported the restaurant collapsed during the storm.
Tornado funnels are seen making their way through the Midwest Thursday evening, leaving a trail of destruction
Instagram user Hannah Jane shared this image of the approaching tornado in Illinois Thursday evening
Menace: A dark funnel cloud is seen in the sky over central Illinois Thursday
Aftermath: The entire community of Fairdale was destroyed by the savage storm
The tornadoes left a trail of destruction in their wake with debris from blitzed buildings blown into the roads
Roads were closed off as rescue workers set about removing the debris strewn across this intersection in Michigan
Raymond Kramer, 81, found himself trapped in the basement of the eatery along with 11 other people for about 90 minutes, reported ABC 7 Chicago.
‘When the tornado hit, we all got a dust bath. Everyone in there got shattered with dust and debris falling out of the rafters,’ Kramer told the station.
Trees were uprooted, power lines were down and debris was everywhere surrounding the restaurant Thursday night.
The tornado was part of a storm that tracked across at least five counties, according to the National Weather Service.
The severe weather, the region’s first widespread bout, also forced the cancellation of more than 850 flights at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and dozens of others at the city’s Midway International Airport.