Six dead, dozens injured in Harrisburg tornado
HARRISBURG, Ill. – A series of severe storms--including a level E4 tornado--left a trail of destruction and six confirmed dead in Harrisburg, Illinois Wednesday morning.
Editor's note: Updated with new information and contact numbers/links.
A tornado hit the City of Harrisburg at 4:56 a.m. Wednesday morning, and six people were confirmed dead at 11:30 a.m. The number was listed as ten earlier, but state emergency officials revised the number, according to the Associated Press.
An estimated 100 were injured and between 250 to 300 houses were damaged or destroyed and an estimated 25 business destroyed or damaged. The National Weather Service has initially listed the tornado that struck Harrisburg as an F4, with winds near 170 mph.
And as residents and businesses around Harrisburg struggle in the aftermath, emergency personnel and other crews work to restore services and offer hope.
Harrisburg Mayor Eric Gregg says "We will rebuild this city. This will make us stronger."
A shelter is open at the First Baptist Church in Harrisburg 204 North Main St. Donations may be made to the Red Cross at the First Baptist Church, The Salvation Army at 10 West Locust in Harrisburg, or at Christian Compassion Care Center/ P.O. Box 422/ Harrisburg.
Saline County has implemented a 6 p.m. curfew to avoid issues while emergency operations are underway. Search and rescue operations have been shifted to a search and recovery mode.
At this time site seers are asked to stay away from the City of Harrisburg. Numerous power lines are down and gas lines leaking. The National Weather Service is investigating the storm damage this afternoon.
Harrisburg Medical Center is not admitting patients, the emergency room is open and operational, if anyone needs emergency care. The hospital did suffer some damage but is open.
All state highways in the Harrisburg area are now clear and open.
In nearby Ridgway, Illinois, damage included the 200-year-old St. Joseph's Catholic Church, which was heavily damaged during the storms.
An emergency shelter has been set up at the Golden Circle Senior Center in Ridgway, but officials want to remind everyone that there is a 5 p.m. curfew in effect so that emergency workers can continue without interruptions.
The roads in Ridgway are closed to through traffic, and food and drink are available at the Fire Department. The Egyptian Health Department has made limited doses of tetanus available free of charge.
Ameren Illinois dispatched field personnel to assess damage and restore service as quickly as possible. Approximately 12,000 Southern Illinois customers were without electrical service at 8:00 a.m. Wednesday.
Ameren Illinois field personnel were patrolling the impacted areas to determine the extent of damage. In addition to broken utility poles and downed wires, there were downed tree limbs and trees, damaged buildings and debris as well as blocked streets in impacted areas. In addition, Ameren Illinois was assisting the Saline County Emergency conduct a search and rescue in Harrisburg.
SouthEastern Illinois Electric Cooperative reported widespread power outages after the storm. The Cooperative experienced 4,200 outages at the peak of the storm with 6 substations out of power. As of 10:00 a.m. Wednesday morning the Cooperative is reporting 1,800 members without service and 3 substations remain without power. The majority of these outages were in Saline, Gallatin and Williamson counties.
The Egyptian Health Department reminds those with with power outages that food safety is always a concern after a power outage. During a power outage, keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the temperatures. The refrigerator will keep food safely cold for about 4 hours if the door is unopened. A full freezer will maintain its temperature for approximately 48 hours if the door remains closed(a half full freezer for about 24 hours).
If a power outage is prolonged and temperatures cannot be maintained, some food will have to be discarded. Potentially hazardous foods such as meat, dairy items and eggs, should be discarded if the temperature is over 40 degrees F for more than two hours. If food in the freezer is not above 40 degrees F and ice crystals remain, food can be refrozen. However, it is best to remember when it comes to food safety, “When in Doubt, Throw it Out!”