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At Least Three Tornadoes Hit Western And Southwestern Suburbs

Updated 06/23/15 - 11:43 a.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) -- National Weather Service crews were headed out Tuesday to try to confirm reports of up to six tornadoes touching down Monday in Grundy, LaSalle, Lee, and Will counties, including three already confirmed in Ottawa, Sublette, and Coal City.

Two National Weather Service teams were being deployed Tuesday morning to assess damage from the storms, and confirm the three other suspected tornadoes. One team was starting in Sublette, and working its way southeast; the other was starting in Coal City, and working its way northwest.

It was a long night for emergency crews and homeowners in Coal City, which was also hit by a tornado in November 2013. Several buildings in the town were damaged or destroyed by the twister, including the high school and a fire station.

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Coal City village administrator Matt Fritz said multiple subdivisions in Coal City were hit by the storm, and he said nearly every resident on the south side of Coal City was affected by the tornado.

Officials said there were no fatalities, and only five minor injuries were reported. Although several people were trapped in their basements or crawl spaces after the storm hit, they believe everyone has been accounted for. Crews were conducting a secondary search Tuesday morning to confirm no one else is trapped.

"We believe that we've accounted for everbody so far," Wilmington Fire Protection District Deputy Chief Todd Fridole said.

Coal City's fire chief and a number of other emergency responders had their homes damaged in the storm, according to Fridole.

The storm hit very close to the area damaged by a tornado in November 2013.

"It's very close. It's eerily close to the damage we saw about a year-and-a-half ago," Fridole said.


For residents of Coal City, there were many small triumphs on Tuesday – like finding a bike in the rubble – and bigger causes to celebrate, like knowing your family survived.

"It's tough. You know, it's your kids, your grandkids. It's hard," Greg Washburn said.

Fridole said he didn't know how many personnel responded to the storm, but at least 36 agencies were assisting in Coal City.

A perimeter has been set up around the area where the tornado hit, and, as of early Tuesday morning, only emergency responders and National Weather Service crews were being allowed inside.

"It's not time for volunteers to come out and help us yet," Fritz said.

Coal City Mayor Terry Halliday said the storm's path started on the west side of the town, near the high school, and hit multiple neighborhoods, as well as one of Coal City's fire stations, which sustained "quite a bit of substantial damage."

Central Illinois Hit With Severe Tornados
(Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)

Halliday said it was unfortunate Coal City has been hit twice by tornadoes in a span of less than two years, but he said he is confident the town will recover.

"I do know the resiliency of this community. I've lived in it all my life. Neighbors will come out and help neighbors, and we will definitely get through this," he said.

Coal City officials have set up a hotline to provide information to residents, and to help coordinate volunteer efforts, by calling 815-518-3047 beginning at 9:30 a.m.

Fritz said donations to recovery efforts can be sent to the Community Foundation of Grundy County, through their website,

As the storm hit around 10 p.m., many residents did not get their first good look at the damage until early Tuesday morning.

Many trees were snapped in half, roofs were blown off homes, siding was sheared off buildings, roofs were blown off countless homes, other houses were completely caved in, power was out to a large portion of the town, and many roads were left flooded and impassable.

"It's hard to believe that anything can happen that quick, and be done within a matter of 15-20 minutes, and just destroy a community," Washburn said.

Three generations of the Washburn family looked back on the tragedy with remarkable resilience.

"We were in the basement, and our ears started popping. My stepdad actually threw a carpet over us, and we felt the house kind of lift up a little bit," said Greg's granddaughter, Emma Washburn.

Her father, Tim, said he can't help but look at the bright side, and appreciate what the family still has.

"If you're not optimistic on all this stuff, then you'll just drown yourself in this pool," he said.

Several residents said they were lucky to have weathered the storm without any injuries or fatalities.

"It was a mighty rushing wind. It literally woke us up, and fear and terror … and we were in fear," said Rick Wilson. "It was devastating wind."

ComEd said, at the height of Monday's storms, approximately 49,000 customers were without power. As of 10 a.m., crews had restored power to all but about 17,000 customers affected by the storms. ComEd has deployed 200 crews to help repair damaged power lines and utility poles, and clear away downed trees.

The American Red Cross has set up two shelters to help storm victims. Nineteen people spent the night at a shelter at the United Methodist Church in Coal City, and a handful stayed at the shelter set up in Sublette.

Gov. Bruce Rauner surveyed the damage in Coal City late Monday morning.

"There's been great management of the process, because there's been no loss of life, and no serious injuries, so folks had some warning, and we're very fortunate in that," Rauner said.

Coal City Police Sgt. Thomas Logan said at least 20 to 30 buildings were damaged or destroyed by the tornado, but officials said it would be a couple days before they would have a full accounting of the damage. Logan said Monday's storm appeared to be worse than the EF-2 tornado that hit in 2013.

There also was likely tornado damage near Harmon, and possible tornado damage near Mendota and Kankakee, according to the National Weather Service.

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