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Hundreds injured, many displaced by Midwest tornadoes

November 19, 2013|By Soumya Karlamangla

After a spate of rare late-season tornadoes ripped through the Midwest on Sunday and killed at least eight people, local and state officials struggled Tuesday to quantify damage, information needed to secure federal aid. 

Illinois was hit hardest when more than a dozen tornadoes touched down across the state, leaving hundreds of people injured and many displaced. On Tuesday, National Weather Service meteorologists surveyed the damage and identified at least 16 tornadoes that had wreaked havoc in the Midwest, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Also Tuesday, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn raised the number of counties declared disaster zones to 13, after visiting towns Monday where the destruction was worst.

“Yesterday I saw first-hand the devastation caused by these deadly storms,” Quinn said in a statement. “While the recovery will be long and hard, we will work in the coming days, weeks and months to assist these communities and help the people who live there rebuild their lives."

Quinn visited the town of Washington, which took a direct hit from a powerful EF-4 tornado with winds up to 190 mph. The highest ranked tornado is an EF-5. At its height, the storm front stretched across three miles.

The tornado in Washington, which is near Peoria, killed one person, injured 120 and damaged as many as 500 homes, according to the Chicago Tribune. 

"The devastation is just unbelievable," Washington Mayor Gary Manier said. "I can't imagine people walked away from these places."

The state’s emergency management agency is collecting data on the magnitude of destruction to submit a request for federal assistance, Patti Thompson, the agency's spokeswoman, told the Los Angeles Times. On Monday, Quinn urged people to document the damages they'd experienced.

“We just haven’t been really able to get a good handle on it,” Thompson said. “Even the people who are out in the field in these communities, they’ve had so many things to deal with, counting homes hasn’t really been at the top of their list of things to do.”

The White House issued a statement Monday saying President Obama had been briefed about the damage and was in touch with federal, state and local officials.

Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) said he was prepared to push Congress to help with aid.  “While we don't yet know the full extent of the damage, it is clear that coordinated local, state and federal resources will be needed to rebuild. I stand ready to work with my colleagues in that effort.”

About 8,000 homes remained without power in Illinois, Thompson said. In Michigan, more than 235,000 homes were without power Tuesday afternoon, according to a Twitter message from the state’s emergency management system.

The power company expects electricity to return to most areas over the next few days, with the last areas being restored Friday night.

Making for more misery, the tornadoes left behind heavy rains across the Midwest, with more expected later this week. 

"The weather might not always cooperate with those rebuilding efforts," Thompson said. "But that's actually several steps ahead of where we are right now." 


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Twitter: @skarlamangla

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