'We were holding each other'

'We were holding each other'

It started out as a normal Sunday afternoon for Brenda and Jeff Mifflin.

The rural Rantoul residents were settling in to watch the Chicago Bears game and were disappointed it had been delayed due to strong thunderstorms. Jeff happened to look out of a large picture window on the west side of the house and saw a sight that made him yell for Brenda to take cover in the basement.

"We have never been ones to run to the basement," Brenda said. "But I wanted us to be together."

Brenda laid down next to the washer and dryer in the southeast corner of the basement, and Jeff quickly joined her.

"We were holding each other," she said.

Objects started flying around, and the Mifflins closed their eyes.

"I prayed, 'Keep us safe, Lord,'" Brenda said.

There was a lot of noise, and one of the beams in the basement fell. The chaos was over within a few minutes. When the Mifflins opened their eyes, they couldn't believe what they saw.

"It was gone," Brenda said. "The whole house was gone."

Along with the house, the garage was gone, but both cars were still intact.

The Mifflins' 17-year-old son, Alex, was in Rantoul at the time, and Brenda told him to stay there.

Friends began calling, asking if the Mifflins were OK. A number came out to help them sort through the remains of their home, picking up and sorting whatever possessions they could find amidst the rubble.

Slither, the family's pet ball python, was missing.

"I wish we could find him," Brenda said.

The Mifflins have lived in their home about a mile south and two miles west of Gifford for about 22 years.

"We've had a lot of storms, maybe a lot of limbs down, but never actually seen a tornado," Brenda said.

The Mifflins had offers from several friends to stay with them in the interim, but Brenda admitted she didn't know what the family was going to do next.

"I have a lot of faith," Brenda said. "I have God and my family."

Just west of the Mifflins, Dale and Lori Busboom lost a barn and had damage to the east side of their home.

"It's just devastating," Dale said. "I'd call it a tornado."

The Busbooms took shelter just before the destruction hit.

"We had no more gotten in the basement when we could hear creaking and popping," Lori said.

A 12-inch square concrete block that had been next to the barn was thrown through the wall of their kitchen.

The top of the Busbooms' well was also knocked off. An exterior door and a storm door were sprung, and rose bushes were pulled out.

"It could have been a heck of a lot worse," Dale said.

Dale's parents and grandparents lived in the same house. The last time such a strong storm came through was in 1951 as his parents covered a window with blankets to protect the infant Dale as a storm went over.

The Busbooms were packing the food from their freezer into a cooler as they prepared to evacuate for the seven to 10 days they were told it might take for their electricity to be restored. In addition to the numerous downed power lines in the area, their electrical box was ripped away.

"It's too windy to board everything up," Dale said.

Teresa Uden was taken to Presence Covenant Medical Center in Urbana with head and neck injuries after a storm severely damaged her home about a mile south and a mile east of Rantoul, according to her stepson, Dean Uden.

"I'd call it a total loss," Dean said of the damage.

Dean's father, Raymond, was in Florida at the time.

"I've lived out here my whole life and never seen anything like it," Dean Uden said.

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