News Local/State

Governor Declares Lee & Grundy Counties State Disaster Areas Following Possible Tornadoes

Bernie Burla drives a tractor past a damaged grain silo on his family farm Tuesday, June 23, 2015, in Coal City, Ill., after a tornado passed through the area Monday evening.

Bernie Burla drives a tractor past a damaged grain silo on his family farm Tuesday, June 23, 2015, in Coal City, Ill., after a tornado passed through the Coal City area Monday evening. The National Weather Service confirmed a twister touched down in the community of approximately 5,000 residents, about 60 miles southwest of Chicago . (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner has declared a disaster in Lee and Grundy counties, where possible tornadoes caused damage at a campground in Sublette in Lee County and in the Grundy County town of Coal City.

Rauner says he wants a thorough search of the Woodhaven Lakes campground that was hit by a possible tornado on Monday night. 

Rauner said at a news conference Tuesday morning that people who aren't from the Sublette area may be trapped or hurt at Woodhaven Lakes and may not be reported missing. He's sent in a state search-and-rescue team to help. 

Rauner toured damage from another possible tornado in Coal City by helicopter and said it's "a miracle'' no one died. Rauner described destroyed homes, commercial buildings and warehouses.  Five people were hospitalized with minor injuries.

The governor also said that the state's preliminary determination is that the area won't qualify for federal assistance but that it wouldn't be known for sure until crews complete damage assessments. 

Meanwhile, a Coal County woman says she was nearly sucked out of the underground crawlspace she and her husband were sheltering in as a suspected tornado blew apart the family's 100-year-old corn and soybean farm. 

Fifty-nine-year-old Debra Burla of Coal City says she's "still numb.'' She described trying to clamber toward the middle of the cramped crawlspace on Monday night. 

Her daughter, son-in-law and 31/2-year-old granddaughter did the same next door. They became trapped for a while in their underground crawlspace after a garage collapsed above them.  All of the family members survived the storm without a scratch. The farm was also hit by tornadoes in 2013 and in 1947, when it was completely ruined. 

Coal City Fire District spokesman Nick Dorfler said this tornado hit a more populated area than one that hit in November of 2013.

"We have everything from leveled homes to very minor damage on the outskirts of the storm," he said.

Officials kept non-residents out of the area, but allowed residents to return once properites had been searched and given the all clear.

Standing on the porch of her roofless, single-level home, Barbara Vianno said she’s glad her husband convinced her to leave, rather than take shelter in the bathroom.

"That house is damaged, it has holes in roof, the windows are blown out, there's trees on it, the garage is on the cars," she said.  "We have grain bins, we don't even know where they are."

The National Weather Service says its assessment teams have confirmed at least two tornadoes with wind speeds between 111 mph and 135 mph touched down in northern Illinois late Monday.
One of the EF-2 tornadoes was in Lee County just south of Sublette near Woodhaven Lakes campground.  The other EF-2 tornado went from Coal City to Braidwood on the Grundy and Will county line.
Forecasters say the weather service's teams were continuing to assess damage Tuesday and that more tornado confirmations were expected.