Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

November 18, 2013

UPDATE: National Weather Service confirms tornado

Crew surveying damage to determine if more than one

Jackson Adams and Bill Grimes
Daily News

EFFINGHAM — One day after a storm knocked out power and wreaked havoc throughout Fayette County and the Midwest, the National Weather Service has confirmed the damage near St. Elmo is the result of a tornado.

Jeff Kramper, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Lincoln, said researchers on the ground in Fayette County Monday afternoon found damage suggesting winds around St. Elmo were about 115 to 120 miles per hour.

"They're definitely documenting some tornado damage points there," he said.

Final analysis of the damage revealed the single EF2 tornado to be 11.5 miles long with a maximum width of 200 yards, having winds that reached a maximum speed of 120 miles per hour. The tornado is believed to have formed just east of Brownstown, traveling along U.S. 40 before stopping north of Altamont.

The newer rating of EF1 — the weakest — means winds were between 86 and 110 miles per hour, with EF5 winds in excess of 200 mph being the strongest. An EF2 tornado is classified as strong.

Fayette County EMA Coordinator Kendra Cray said she has been in contact with the Illinois Emergency Management Agency to try to find help for St. Elmo and those affected by the storm. Cray said the county had 17 reports of homes affected by the storm and four of those homes were made uninhabitable by damage. However, she said the community has banded together to help deal with what has been lost.

"What I can't tell you right now is whether that's one tornado or more than one," she said. "The St. Elmo community have really banded together to start cleanup. Most people are starting to clean up to some degree."

Cray said no injuries were reported and no animals were killed as a result of the tornado.

"Everybody's

OK," she said. "That's the biggest thing. We're very lucky."

While power was out for many residents in Brownstown and St. Elmo areas as a result of the storm, a representative from Ameren said as of Monday afternoon, power should have been restored for all residents.

"We had about 1,000 customers in the St. Elmo area without power," said Brian Bretsch, an Ameren representative. "As of 1 p.m., they're all back."

Bretsch said there have been more than 148,000 customers without power statewide as a result of Sunday's storms, with more than 120,000 of them having their power returned within 20 hours. As of Monday afternoon, 19,000 Illinois residents are still without power, mostly in hard-hit Washington and Pekin.

In Effingham County, high winds also struck some Effingham County buildings, including Teutopolis Auto Sales. While the existing building sustained no damage Sunday, the service addition under construction behind the main building was another story.

But owner Phil Webster isn't complaining.

“I was standing underneath it (the shell of the addition) 10 minutes before it came down,” Webster said. “If something like this had to happen, I'm glad it happened on a Sunday afternoon.”

Webster noted that contractors had just finished framing the addition.

“It's all wood,” he said. “It's a little frustrating, but the main part of the building is still standing, so we are able to do business.”

Webster said his woes are minor compared to damage sustained in other parts of the state, such as Tazewell and eastern Champaign.

“I still feel very blessed,” he said. “Look around other parts of the state that were completely destroyed.”

Webster said the addition will have to be reframed, but he doesn't expect a delay of more than a couple of weeks.

“We're hoping it won't put us too far behind,” he said.

For more photos of storm damage throughout the area, click on http://effinghamdailynews.smugmug.com/Nature/Storm-damage-Nov-2013