National Weather Service crews spent Sunday following the path of rare December tornadoes, with record-breaking wind in the state capital, at least 21 people injured in Taylorville and a Staunton business damaged after it recently rebuilt.
Tornadoes formed Saturday evening along the Illinois River and near Springfield, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Chris Geelhart.
The NWS office in St. Louis sent two teams to evaluate damage in the eastern sections of Pike and Macoupin counties and the western portion of Montgomery County.
The highest speed tornado was recorded near the city of Butler, reaching 115 mph, said Jared Maples, who was part of the NWS teams. He said houses there were damaged “pretty badly.”
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to Belleville News-Democrat
In Pike County, there were four total touchdowns, including two near the towns of Pleasant Hill and Valley City that reached speeds of 98 mph and 110 mph, respectively.
Maples said there were several areas with extensive damage that the NWS teams were most concerned about.
One of those was Staunton, where Russell Noel, owner of Country Classic Cars, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the storm damaged some of the buildings and vintage cars at the dealership — which already had to rebuild after a fire last year.
Farther north, Taylorville was one of the towns hit hardest by the storm.
The Springfield Journal Register reported that 21 people were transported to Taylor Memorial Hospital with injuries from the storm. They ranged in age from 9 to 97. Most of them were discharged within hours, according to the report from the newspaper.
Maples said the tornadoes there also reached speeds of up to 86 mph.
“In general, it there were brief tornadoes and cycling that would pick up and drop again elsewhere and it did that repeatedly,” Maples said. “Unfortunately those came together at the right time to direcly impact Taylorville.”
As of Sunday night, no deaths had been reported in Illinois. One death was reported early Saturday in southwest Missouri after thunderstorms there.
Taylorville Assistant Fire Chief Andy Goodall told the Taylorville Daily Breeze-Courier that roofs had been ripped off of many homes, including his own. He estimated 100 houses were severely damaged.
Gov. Bruce Rauner and U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis were scheduled to tour the storm damage in Taylorville on Sunday afternoon, along with William Robertson, the acting director of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency.
Davis lives in Taylorville, a city of 11,000.
“Devastating to see so many homes of friends and neighbors destroyed by last night’s tornado,” Davis wrote in a Facebook post Sunday. “Praying for those who have been injured and all those impacted.
“Thank you to first responders, local officials, and dozens of volunteers who have come together to help.”
In Springfield, winds reached 74 mph at 5:30 p.m. Sunday, which sets the December record for the city, according to the National Weather Service office in Lincoln. The old record was 72 mph winds from Dec. 15, 1971, the agency reported on Twitter.
The National Weather Service says peak months for tornadoes in much of the Midwest are April and June.