Metro-East News

Southern Illinois starts picking up the pieces after severe storms kill 3

'She was in the doorway when the storm hit' and the house collapsed

Donna Waller of Elkville, IL describes what her mother, Nadine Lacy, 79, went through after her one-story house collapsed on her during Feb. 28's storm in Southern Illinois. Lacy was not injured, but called saying she was trapped and needed help.
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Donna Waller of Elkville, IL describes what her mother, Nadine Lacy, 79, went through after her one-story house collapsed on her during Feb. 28's storm in Southern Illinois. Lacy was not injured, but called saying she was trapped and needed help.

For 49 years, Nadine Lacy has lived at the corner of Chamnesstown Road and Lacy Road in the southern Illinois town of Elkville.

With a storm barreling down on the Jackson County town Tuesday night, Lacy decided to ride out the storm on her own rather than go to one of her children’s houses nearby.

Lacy stood in a doorway next to a chimney as the storm ripped its way through the one-story structure. Within seconds, Lacy was trapped.

“She said it felt like the house exploded,” her daughter, Donna Waller, said.

Waller, who lives nearby, was among those who rushed to the house after the storm.

“We couldn’t see her, but we could hear her,” Waller said. “She had called us and said she was trapped.”

After a few minutes, Lacy’s family was able to get her out of the house safely. Lacy was fine other than a few bumps and bruises. She was hit in the head, but was not harmed.

Lacy’s residence was one of five that was totally destroyed in the neighborhood, which is next to some railroad tracks on the north side of Elkville.

On Wednesday afternoon, dozens of people walked the neighborhood to help those whose homes had been damaged.

Just south of nearby Ava, one of Brianne Phoenix’s neighbors said that the yard that Phoenix’s double-wide trailer was on the nicest on Marlboro Road.

BND reporter Don O'Brien was in Southern Illinois near Ava, IL looking at the aftermath of strong storms that swept through the area late Tuesday night into early Wednesday morning. A trailer on Marlboro Road owned by Brianne Phoenix was pushed of

The carefully manicured lawn with its tidy landscaping helped make the home stand out in its rural setting in Jackson County.

The severe storms that ripped through Jackson County ruined the Phoenix’s picturesque setting. The high winds wound up knocking the house off of its foundation and turning it 90 degrees. The back wall fell down and 80 years of hard work — the site previously was a dump site — were gone in a matter of moments.

“It is kind of crazy, but we will get through it,” Phoenix said as at least a dozen friends and family members tried to help with the cleanup Wednesday morning. “I am still kind of numb to the situation.”

About five miles to the northeast, Gary Fults was trying to take inventory of everything he may have lost on his farm, which is about a mile south of Ava’s city limits. He lost at least four buildings on his farm. He also has no idea what happened to two steer that had been in an old barn that was destroyed by the storm.

“There is nowhere to start on it, “ Fults said as he sat in an old pickup truck and looked at the twisted metal and destruction about 20 yards in front of him. “All you can do is shove it off and start over. You can’t fix that.”

While the Phoenixes lost their house, Fults said his damage was “hundred of thousands of dollars.”

A 20-minute drive down some back roads from where Phoenix’s residence was hit, Debbie Sullivan was trying to pick up the pieces of her house just south of Vergennes. She was one of five people who took shelter in the basement of what was a one-story house before the storm ripped through it around 8:15 p.m. Tuesday.

The house fell in on Sullivan and her family members, which included her husband and her sister’s family.

“It felt like it lasted forever, but it only lasted a few seconds,” Sullivan said of the winds that tore through the structure.

Sullivan said some people passing by on Illinois 127 stopped to help her and her family crawl out of the rubble. Other than a few bumps and bruises, no one at the Sullivan residence was seriously hurt.

Early warnings helped all involved survive the storm. Phoenix went with her husband, Jeremy, and their 2-year-old daughter to her sister’s house in Steeleville to wait out the storm.

Fults waited out the storm in the basement of his house with five other family members. His residence is just a short drive to his farm. His home sustained some roof damage.

At each site, neighbors and friends were out in full force to help those who had been affected. By 10 a.m. Wednesday, Fults said he had probably been approached by 100 people offering help.

Storm damage was also evident in Rockwell, located in southern Randolph County on Illinois 3. The Randolph County town of Elkville also was hit. Ameren set up a hub just off of Illinois 4 in Elkville for its crews to gather. Some roads in Elkville near the affected areas were closed to traffic so that power crews could replace poles.

Picking up the pieces

Some parts of Southern Illinois were cleaning up Wednesday morning after strong storms moved through the area Tuesday evening and early Wednesday morning.

One of the hardest-hit areas appeared to be in Randolph County, where many residents were still without power Wednesday morning. The area is just across the Mississippi River from Perry County, Mo., which is about 80 miles south of St. Louis.

One person was killed when an apparent tornado moved through the Perry County area. Eight to 10 homes near the small town of Perryville, Mo., were badly damaged and winds were so strong that several vehicles were blown off Interstate 55. Perry County Clerk Jared Kutz said search-and-rescue crews were going door-to-door and checking the highway to see if there were other victims.

There were no fatalities reported in Randolph County, but there was some property damage, according to the Randolph County Herald-Tribune. The newspaper reported that the village of Rockwood, which has a population of 42 and is located on Illinois 3, had been hit by what could have been a tornado. Power poles were snapped and some outbuildings were damaged.

“It appears to be a tornado, but I can’t say for sure,” Randolph County Sheriff Shannon Wolff told the newspaper. “There are multiple power lines down.”

Residents there were among the nearly 4,000 in the county who woke up without power Wednesday, according to an Ameren Illinois outage map.

Belleville News-Democrat reporter Don O'Brien was in Southern Illinois near Ava, IL looking at the aftermath of strong storms that ripped through the area late Tuesday night into early Wednesday morning. Gary Fults' farm was substantially damaged

Ameren Illinois activated its Emergency Operations Center at 3 p.m. Tuesday to coordinate response efforts throughout the state. Power had been restored to more than 22,330 customers since 5 p.m. Tuesday, Ameren said.

An Ameren news release said customers in Sparta and Belleville in Southern Illinois and LaSalle and Ottawa in northern Illinois were the most affected, with at least 125 power poles down in those areas. The Ameren outage map showed that power was restored to all of its Sparta customers and all but 12 Belleville customers by 7 a.m. Wednesday.

Farther south in Jackson County there were reports of minor injuries and damaged homes between Ava and Elkville, according to the Southern Illinoisan. The Jackson County Sheriff’s Department confirmed damage to at least five homes with one that was destroyed. Trees and power lines were knocked down throughout the northern part of Jackson County, the paper reported.

(File video) Tornadoes spawned by a powerful storm system that moved through part of the Midwest killed at least three people, including two in Illinois. The National Weather Service said that survey teams would catalogue damage and determine the

Areas in northern Illinois also were affected by the storms, which happened on an unseasonably warm February day. At Ottawa, Illinois Emergency Management Agency spokeswoman Patti Thompson said a person was killed by an uprooted tree. Minor injuries were also reported at an Ottawa nursing home, but Thompson said the number of those hurt in the twisters was not known.

Also, White County Coroner Chris Marsh said Wednesday that the storm system spawned a twister that struck a small building near a house in the Crossville area, which is in southeastern Illinois near the border with Indiana. It killed a 71-year-old man and injured his wife.

Ameren was sending more than 180 field and support personnel to assist with restorations efforts in LaSalle County. Ameren said it had people available to assist in the Carbondale area.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Don O’Brien: 618-239-2626, @DOBrienBND

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