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Apr 11, 2015 12:16 PM

Residents allowed back into tornado-hit Illinois town

The Associated Press

FAIRDALE, Ill. (AP) Residents of a small northern Illinois farming community that took a direct hit from a half-mile-wide tornado were allowed back into the area Saturday to assess the damage.

The DeKalb County Sheriff's Office bused residents into Fairdale at 7 a.m. so they could begin to take stock of what was left of their property.

Eight tornadoes are now confirmed to have roared across northern and central Illinois during Thursday's storms, according to the National Weather Service.

The strongest of the tornadoes hit Fairdale, where two people were killed. That tornado also injured 22 people.

The weather service gave it a preliminary rating of an EF4 with winds of between 180 and 200 mph. It was a half-mile wide and remained on the ground for at least 28.7 miles, a record long path for that part of Illinois.

As the cleanup began, tales of survival continued to emerge.

Kelly Newman, 46, lost her Rochelle home. For her, the storm began with a moment of playful wonder at the size of the hail. She ran outside to collect some of the pieces to put it in the freezer to show her children.

"Then I noticed to the southwest there was a huge black funnel thing, but it didn't look like a tornado because it was just way too wide," she said.

But the telltale train-like roar sent them and their 19-year-old daughter running for the basement. The house cracked and collapsed around them, raining down debris and a dusting of what she described as "muddy soot."

The family survived, and several police officers helped free her husband, who had been trapped nearly upside down between two collapsed walls.

"We're alive, we were spared. Our lives were saved," she said.


Associated Press writer Teresa Crawford contributed to this report from Rochelle.


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