Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

January 31, 2013

Evening storms cause damage

Bill Grimes
Effingham Daily News

ALTAMONT —  Heavy rain and high winds caused problems for homeowners and motorists Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, particularly in western Effingham County.

Some of the more notable incidents included a tree falling on a church parsonage on the west edge of Altamont Tuesday evening and three motorists getting stranded in the Little Wabash River bottomland on West Fayette Avenue.

Effingham County Dive-Rescue Team members were called to the river bottom at about 9:15 a.m. Wednesday. Sheriff's deputies had been called as well, after it was reported an empty vehicle had been in the water since about 7 a.m. Wednesday.

Dive team Capt. Jeremy Kyle said deputies observed two occupied small sport utility vehicles stranded on the slightly elevated Fayette Avenue bridge over the Little Wabash.

Kyle said the vehicles safely traversed the flood waters as divers began to suit up, but not without large amounts of debris and other potentially dangerous obstructions sticking to the grilles and front ends of the vehicles.

Meanwhile, the unoccupied car that had sparked the initial call remained in the water until it subsided. Kyle said emergency personnel were on the scene for about 30 minutes.

Dive team Commander Terry Trueblood said there was no reason to attempt the risky recovery of an unoccupied car.

"It's totaled anyway," he said. "We're not going to risk anybody's life to get it out."

Trueblood said there weren't any warnings to stay off the Fayette Avenue river bottom before the Wednesday morning incidents. Signs, however, were in place by late morning. They are signs that motorists need to heed, Trueblood said.

"It only takes about 11 inches of water to sweep a vehicle off the road," he said. "Anytime we get one of these flash floods, people need to plan alternate routes in case their usual route is flooded."

Damage in Tuesday's storm included a tree that fell on the Lighthouse Baptist Church parsonage on U.S. 40 at the west end of Altamont. The Rev. Troy Kurtz said he was home with his wife, Amy, and their five children when the home began to shake around 9:30 p.m. Tuesday.

"We told the kids to get in the bathroom, because we thought it might be a tornado," Kurtz said.

A large tree near the northwest corner of the home damaged the nearby roof. But Kurtz said the home is still inhabitable. The church next door escaped damage.

Altamont City Clerk Sarah Stephen said residents reported downed tree limbs and damaged fences throughout the city.

"There was also some tin (from building roofs) lying around here and there," Stephen said.

Stephen said one tree fell into a camper parked on South Third Street. While power was out where falling limbs had damaged lines, it was restored throughout the city by 11:30 p.m. Tuesday.

The rain and wind occurred as part of a cold front that moved through the area late Tuesday and Wednesday morning. National Weather Service meteorologist Heather Stanley said the front brought Arctic air into the Midwest on the heels of several days of above-average temperatures.

"We've seen temperatures drop all over central Illinois," Stanley said.

And, they're going to keep dropping. Stanley said area residents can expect temperatures to fall throughout Thursday, culminating with lows in single digits. With wind speeds expected to reach double digits, wind chills could be well below zero.

Bill Grimes can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 132, or at bill.grimes@effinghamdailynews.com.