GIFFORD — Emergency management officials reported that electricity had been restored by 5 p.m. Wednesday to most Gifford homes where it was safe to do so.
Rick Atterberry, spokesman for the Champaign County Emergency Management Agency, said electricity was still not available for those homes severely damaged by Sunday's tornado.
Meanwhile, the Champaign County sheriff's office announced that U.S. 136, which has been closed to through traffic since Sunday afternoon, will reopen at 8 a.m. Thursday.
And volunteers are still needed to help out in this northern Champaign County community.
"Skilled volunteers are welcome Thursday morning," Atterberry said. "They must check in at 8 a.m. with United Way personnel at the Country Health nursing home on U.S. 136."
Atterberry said volunteers should park at Hicksgas at U.S. 136 and Main Street or at the St. Paul's Lutheran Church, Gifford Grade School or a field behind St. Paul's, all south of downtown on Main Street.
Volunteers may not park at individual properties, Atterberry said.
"Sightseers, gawkers and other non-volunteers should avoid the area until further notice," he said.
According to Atterberry, the Illinois Department of Transportation, Champaign County Highway Department and the Champaign Public Works Department will continue to remove debris in Gifford on Thursday.
He said homeowners and their insurance companies are responsible for debris removal on private property.
"It must be sorted by type, including trees and vegetation, building materials, ceramic plumbing fixture, major appliances, tiers, batteries, hazardous materials such as cleaning solvents and electronics such as televisions and microwaves.
While untreated water has been available in Gifford since Tuesday afternoon, Atterberry said water will be off between 8 and 10 a.m. Thursday for electrical work.
Atterberry said donations of toiletries and paper items will be accepted at the Eastern Illinois Food Bank, 2405 North Shore Drive, Urbane, from 6:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Thursday.
Brad Uken of the Champaign County Farm Bureau said several farmers who were unaffected by the tornado had begun hauling corn to covered locations.
Rain began to fall in the Gifford area on Wednesday.
"Rain definitely can put some of the grain at risk," Uken said. "There will be some damage to the crops that don't have a roof overhead."
Uiken said any type of moisture or other elements can start the molding process.
"Corn can even start to grow if it is exposed to moisture for a prolonged time," Uken said.
Bernie Anderson, manager of community relations for Nicor Gas, said the company was asking contractors doing demolition work or repairs to call Nicor Gas at 888-642-6748 before working around gas meters.
"We had a contractor in Gifford pull a gas service in the ground on Wednesday, and it caused a gas leak," Anderson said. "Nicor Gas and the fire department had to respond. We were just down the street, so it didn't take long to respond."
Anderson said Nicor Gas made the repairs, and nobody was injured.
"People have to be careful out there," Anderson said. "They need to be aware that many of these gas services are still active."
Mediacom Communications announced on Wednesday that its network technicians rebuilt a fiber connection point, called a node, in Gifford to provide broadband service to the fire department facility that is serving as the command center for storm recovery efforts.
The fiber communications node was built and activated on Tuesday afternoon to provide a strong, mobile broadband connection throughout the northern part of the community, with service also including the delivery of cable television to residents of Country Health.
Mediacom was in the process of connecting an additional fiber node in the southern part of Gifford and planned to connect two more wireless access points on Thursday.
Ameren Illinois reported that field crews and support staff have restored service to 98 percent of customers in the wake of Sunday's tornadoes and high winds in central and southern Illinois.
As of 11 a.m. Wednesday, about 3,000 customers in Gifford, Pekin, East Peoria, Groveland, Roanoke, Washington, and Pana remained without power.
Douglas County Emergency Management Agency Director Joe Victor said his county was making progress recovering from Sunday's storm.
He said he got word from the National Weather Service that there had been two tornadoes on Sunday in Douglas County.
One moved from Arthur to Garrett. The other one went from 2-1/2 miles west of Hayes Road and U.S. 45 east to two miles west of Villa Grove and then continued north out of the county.
Victor said Newman and an area north of Atwood, two areas that had been without power since Sunday, got their electricity back on Wednesday.
But power was still out in Galton.
Galton Road was still closed on Wednesday night while crews worked to put up power poles.
Hayes Road, Filson Road and the intersection of County Roads 1050 N and 2500 E north of Newman all opened for traffic on Wednesday, Victor said.
Victor said one family — a mother and three children from the Galton area— were the only people he was aware of in Douglas County displaced by the storm.
On Wednesday, Gov. Pat Quinn declared Vermilion and Fayette counties state disaster areas, bringing to 15 the number of Illinois counties to receive the designation.
Other counties declared state disaster areas by Governor Quinn include Champaign, Douglas, Grundy, Jasper, LaSalle, Massac, Pope, Tazewell, Wabash, Washington, Wayne, Will and Woodford counties.