Tornado deaths: Elderly siblings remembered for love of exotic animals

News-DemocratNovember 17, 2013 

Two Washington County siblings died Sunday when an EF4 tornado with winds up to 166 mph flattened their home in New Minden.

Joseph Hoy, 80, was pronounced dead at 1:13 p.m., according to Washington County Coroner Mark Styninger. Hoy's sister, Frances Hoy, 78, was pronounced dead at 1:45 p.m.

Styninger said Joseph Hoy's body was found about 100 yards east of his home in a farm field. Frances Hoy was found under rubble on their farm and taken to Washington County Hospital, where she died.

"It's gone. There's no home. It's swept away," Styninger said of the Hoys' home, about 36 miles from Belleville.

Bill Funke is the Hoys' neighbor. He said they raised exotic animals, including ostriches.

"They'd do anything for you. They were friendly, outgoing and really liked exotic animals," he said Monday morning as he paused from clearing debris.

Funke was in his driveway Sunday afternoon watching the funnel cloud come at him, trying to take some pictures, and fled to the cellar with his wife when it was about half to a quarter mile away. Their house survived, but lost some siding and the front porch. He lost his barn, a chicken coop and two sheds, with one shed landing a half mile away.

"It was bad, but I feel good," he said. "Life goes on and none of us here was hurt."

The Hoys were among five people killed and dozens injured statewide after a series of tornadoes and thunderstorms swept through Illinois and the Midwest on Sunday. One person died in Washington, near Peoria, and two others died in Massac County, south of Carbondale.

Styninger said the tornado caused "massive devastation" to property throughout the county as it moved through New Minden to Hoyleton and Centralia, but few people were injured.

"Most residents were out in Nashville having lunch after church and not at home," Styninger said. "That probably saved a lot of people from being killed or injured."

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn declared seven counties a disaster area in the wake of the tornadoes.

Power has been restored for most metro-east residents, but a pocket of people remained without electricity in Monroe County on Monday morning.

According to Ameren, 186 customers were without power Monday morning in the Waterloo area. Another 108 were without electricity in and around Maestown.

Ameren officials said they hope to have power restored for local residents before the end of the day.

It could take longer to get the power back on in Central Illinois, where more than 1,500 people are without electricity.

Washington County Hospital in Nashville treated four people and St. Mary's Good Samaritan-Centralia treated one person with injuries related to the tornado.

Mark Britt, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said the tornado hit about 12:10 p.m. and was on the ground for 10 to 20 minutes.

The worst tornado damage occurred in the area of the fatalities, Britt said. He said survey crews were on scene Sunday until dusk and will resume their work on scene Monday.

"The small farm sustained a direct hit," Britt said. "The homestead was totally destroyed with only the foundation remaining."

Britt said a preliminary storm survey rated the tornado as an EF4 with peak winds of 166 mph. The agency rates tornadoes on a scale of EF0 to EF5.

Britt said tornadoes are uncommon this time of year, but not unheard of.

"They do occur and when they do, they tend to be quite strong because of the wind shear in the atmosphere now compared to other times of the year," Britt said.

Alex Branz was three miles north of Breese when he spotted a funnel cloud about a half mile away in a farm field. He snapped a photo.

"It was an adrenaline rush," Branz said. "I was just sitting around watching the storm and just like that, it was there. We knew we were out of the danger zone cause it was heading away from us and it was dying out when we saw it."

The forecast Monday called for much cooler — but much calmer weather — than the day before.

According to the National Weather Service, the high Monday in the metro-east will be 56 degrees under sunny skies. It will remain clear overnight with a low of 33. On Tuesday skies are expected to be mostly sunny with a high of 55 degrees.

The high of 80 degrees in St. Louis Sunday was a record, shattering the previous mark of 74 set in 1971. The warmer than usual weather fueled violent storms that spawned several tornadoes to the north and west of the metro-east.

The extended forecast calls for temperatures to decline as the week goes on. By the weekend the high temperature is expected to be stuck in the 30s.

The storms caused property damage in Clinton County, but no major injuries were reported.

State Rep. Charlie Meier, R-Okawville, was out of town, but he heard the roar of the tornado as it went by because his sister held up the phone so he could listen.

"I knew when my sister called me this morning and I could hear it on the phone that it would be a terrible day in the state of Illinois," Meier said.

But Meier also said he has been inspired by the day's events: From the Red Cross and Salvation Army's response to the 15,000 residents in Washington County who are willing to help each other.

"They're out there loading cows up from a dairy farm that has been destroyed or helping around the church," Meier said.

The roof blew off St. John's Lutheran Church, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary, Meier said.

The church was planning on pouring a new foundation tomorrow and Meier said he has no doubt members will fix the church as they did when two other tornadoes hit the town in the past.

Meier said he will continue to work with the state and the Illinois Emergency Management Agency to get assistance for the county.

The governor said he hoped those affected by the storms could get quick help.

“Yesterday Illinois was hit extremely hard by deadly tornadoes that left many in a great deal of pain and loss,” Quinn said. “Although we are still receiving reports of massive damage to communities across our state, we want to make sure people are getting the assistance and resources they need as quickly as possible.”

The counties are Champaign, Grundy, LaSalle, Massac, Tazewell, Washington and Woodford. By declaring them a disaster area, the counties will received access to emergency resources including state crews to remove debris and to provide communications and security, according to Quinn. The state is also providing generators, light towers and other emergency resources.

Quinn said he plans Monday to tour some of the hardest it communities including Washington and New Minden.

“As we pray for the families of those who have lost their lives and other who are injured, the state of Illinois will do everything necessary to help these communities recover,” he said.

Meier and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, both said their thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by the storms.

"I am receiving regular updates from Illinois emergency officials and local leaders including those from Washington, Illinois -- one of the areas that was hardest hit today," Durbin stated in a news release. "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."

A Washington County Sheriff's Department dispatcher said officials were too busy to comment on the response effort and referred the public to follow information posted on the agency's Facebook page.

The Sheriff's Department's Facebook page asked residents to avoid the New Minden and Hoyleton areas if possible and to use caution if they have to be in the area.

The Sheriff's Department said there is not an official request for volunteers at this time.

"Numerous reports of damage to residences and utility poles and lines have been reported," sheriff's officials said. "Numerous roads have been/are closed... Please try to avoid the area to allow emergency workers and utility companies time and safety to remove debris and open roadways."

Victoria Busch, an Ameren spokeswoman, said as of 5 p.m. Sunday that more than 4,370 residents in St. Clair and Madison counties were without power.

She estimated that power will be restored to most Belleville area homes by midnight and East St. Louis residents will have power by 7 a.m. Monday.

"We have quite a few poles that were down as well as primary wire down because of the winds," Busch said. "We have to get the primary wire up and then we will be able to restore the distribution lines."

There were 25 to 30 mph winds in St. Clair County on Sunday, with some gusts blowing about 50 mph, warranting a wind advisory by the National Weather Service.

Statewide, about 140,000 Ameren customers are without power, with the hardest hit areas being Washington, Pekin, Danville and Bloomington.

Residents should stay away from downed lines and assume all lines are live, Busch said.

For more information on outages, visit www.ameren.com/outagecenter or www.ameren.mobi. To report a downed line, call 1-800-755-5000.

Contact reporter Jacqueline Lee at jlee@bnd.com or 239-2655. Follow her on Twitter at http:s//twitter.com/BNDBelleville.

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