UPDATE: More than 20 tornadoes touch down in central Illinois Saturday

tornadoes Taylorville tornado Illinois
As many as two dozen preliminary tornadoes touched down on central Illinois Saturday evening, according to the National Weather Service. Among those heavily impacted is the Christian County city of Taylorville, which suffered widespread damage. (NWS Lincoln/Twitter)

Continuing coverage

TAYLORVILLE (Heartland Newsfeed) — As daylight arrived on Sunday morning, residents of Taylorville and other impacted communities across central Illinois were getting their first preview of the level of devastation a suspected tornado caused Saturday evening.

As previously reported, roughly 30 people in Taylorville suffered injuries with more than 100 homes damaged as a result of the tornado which hit the city around 5 p.m. Saturday. No fatalities have been reported.

Officials in Taylorville and Christian County offered the following pieces of information to residents:

  • Stay off the roads unless absolutely necessary. People choosing to drive around to look at damage impedes the work emergency and cleanup crews are trying to do.
  • A shelter staffed by the American Red Cross for displaced residents will be at Crossroads Apostolic Church, which is located at 212 Jaycee Dr.
  • Residents are advised to not clear debris on their own unless they’re certain that power lines, gas leaks or additional hazards aren’t present.
  • Residents should be aware of contractors coming by to offer their services. In cities like Taylorville, systems are in place where only licensed, legal contractors are allowed to work after registering with the city.
  • Portable generations should not be utilized inside homes or in closed garages.

Ameren Illinois reported more than 30 power poles being knocked down in Taylorville, cutting power to 1,250 customers in the city. 2,500 customers are without power in Christian County. Customers are advised to call Ameren to report gas leaks immediately toll free (800) 755-5000.

The National Weather Service in Lincoln revealed a map which showed all of the tornado and severe thunderstorms, as well as all severe weather reports, which were filed late Saturday night.

Reports of lightning, funnel clouds, downed trees, heavy wind gusts, hail and damage were reported to the Lincoln office, as well as the St. Louis and Davenport, Iowa offices.

According to the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., as many as 22 tornadoes were reported Saturday.

The first of the reported tornadoes was two miles north of Valley City in Pike County, with the last of the evening being three miles west of Colfax in McLean County.

Scott Baker from the National Weather said they would likely not know the extend of the damage until sometime Sunday, but they have sent out two survey teams to investigate. One team has been dispatched to east central Illinois, including Taylorville, while the other team has been sent along the Illinois River valley.

Baker noted that severe weather outbreaks this late in the year are not typical, but also cannot be ruled out.

“It can happen,” Baker said. “Severe weather can happen at anytime of the year. You just have to get the setup for it. And we just happened to get the setup for it today.”

A tornado outbreak hit the Midwest on November 17, 2013 which had reported 73 confirmed tornadoes with 136 reported. The nearly 11-hour outbreak would at some point hit the Illinois community of Washington hard. The NWS rated that damage as EF-4 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale, which rates the intensity of tornadoes in the United States and Canada.

A similar outbreak took place close to the Christmas holiday in 2015, but the tornadic touchdowns would result in EF-0 or EF-1 levels of damage, the hardest being Sardis, Miss. and Selmer, Tenn. with EF-4 damage levels.

F-4 and F-5 levels of damage would ravage portions of Illinois during a tornadic outbreak which took place on December 18, 1957.

Rough estimates could have some areas suffering EF-2 or EF-3 levels of damage as a results of Saturday’s tornadoes.

Jake Leonard is the editor-in-chief of Heartland Newsfeed and GM/program director of the Heartland Newsfeed Radio Network. Leonard is also general manager of Heartland Internet Media Networks and an active contributor to four newspapers for Pana News Group.

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