NEW: The National Weather Service has classified the tornado that hit Gifford as an EF3, with peak winds of 140 miles per hour.
Also, a crowd gathered for a candlelight service Monday night at St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Gifford.
We'll post ongoing coverage of the aftermath of the tornadoes in Champaign County here.
From Julie Wurth: The National Weather Service has classified the tornado that hit Gifford on Sunday as an EF3, with peak winds of 140 miles per hour.
“That’s pretty serious business,” said State Climatologist Jim Angel of the Illinois State Water Survey.
The “Enhanced Fujita” scale rates the strength of tornadoes based on estimated wind speeds and the damage caused. The highest is an EF5, with wind speeds over 200 miles per hour. The twister that leveled 400 homes in Washington, near Peoria, was rated an EF4, according to the weather service.
National Weather Service teams surveyed the damage in Washington and Gifford after Sunday’s twisters and issued the ratings on Monday.
Only 3 percent of all tornadoes recorded from 1950 to 2010 fell in the month of November, according to Angel.
“They’re pretty rare,” he said. “This is the only one I could see where there was an outbreak like this.”
Sixteen tornadoes were reported across the state onSunday, he said, but some of those could have been multiple reports of the same tornado.
From Tim Mitchell: One night after a tornado swept across this community, people gathered at a local church to pray for one another and offer thanks.
Many in Gifford came together Monday night at St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church for a candlelight vigil service.
“This is a time for us to share our faith in the Lord and to act on that faith, serving one another,” said the Rev. Steven Lombardo, the church’s pastor. “God causes all things to work together for good.”
Christina Gann of rural Gifford said the people of St. Paul’s wanted to get together to give thanks.
“Even in the midst of all this tragedy, we have so much to be thankful for,” she said. “We need to come together as a community to share thanks.”
Youth minister Gary Maxwell said the experience has helped the people of Gifford to strengthen their faith.
“A lot of people have hope because of our faith,” he said.
Meeting draws crowd
At a town meeting at Gordyville attended by hundreds, Champaign County Sheriff Dan Walsh said there was one report of alleged looting, but it may be a case of miscommunication.
Ameren officials are scheduled to start work rebuilding the power grid Tuesday. The goal is to have power available to Gifford by Wednesday.
On Tuesday, volunteers can report to Gordyville starting at 9 a.m. Residents in need will assemble at Country Health Care nursing home. The Red Cross, in conjunction with United Way, will try to match up volunteers and residents' requests. They will bus the volunteers to the nursing home where they'll meet the families in need.
Governor makes visit
Gov. Pat Quinn arrived in Gifford at 4:15 p.m. today, walking down Main Street with his entourage.
Speaking to officials and media at a news conference outside the Gifford Community Center, Quinn said: "Gifford is a strong town and we want it to come back stronger than ever."
Quinn said he discussed the tornado damage in the state with President Obama earlier Monday.
"We will file for federal disaster relief," Quinn said. "I spoke to the president. He promised full federal cooperation and that is something we want to expedite."
N-G employees help
About 10 News-Gazette employees have volunteered to help out in Gifford, said Traci Nally, vice president of human resources for The News-Gazette Inc., and the company will pay them for part of the time they spend doing so.
The volunteers will help the Salvation Army's disaster efforts. The News-Gazette will pay its hourly employees who volunteer for at least a four-hour shift by paying them two hours' pay. The volunteers will help provide food, water and shelter for those affected by Sunday's storm.
Employees at the Whitestar Home Health Agency in Danville this week are collecting supplies for storm victims in Gifford and Mellot, Ind., a small community in Fountain County that was hit by Sunday’s severe thunderstorm.
Storm misses Prairieview-Ogden school
Giflats players offer help
From Fred Kroner:
GIFFORD — Amateur baseball has been played in Gifford for more than seven decades and there will be another season in 2014.
Ogden-Royal firefighters to accept items
The Ogden-Royal fire department will be hosting a donation drive for Gifford at the Ogden fire station starting Monday and going through Friday from 5:30 to 8 p.m.
Champaign fire chief on helping out
Patrick Wade reports on more information on Champaign assistance: Champaign Fire Chief Doug Forsman said six people from the city’s building safety division and neighborhood services department are in Gifford today helping with damage assessment.
Champaign also sent a communications trailer to Gifford. Forsman said that is a state asset for which Champaign is responsible.
A number of Champaign firefighters were helping with the relief on Sunday, and Forsman himself spent time as incident commander in Gifford on Sunday. He said he didn’t see much — he was stationed in a trailer — but he was able to see some of the damage as he drove toward the town.
"Everything was good on the left, everything was good on the right, and then up the middle everything was destroyed," Forsman said.
Forsman has been in fire service for nearly 50 years. He spent 10 years working as the director of fire service at Oklahoma State University, which makes the situation in Gifford a familiar scene.
"This is not my first rodeo," Forsman said. "I’ve seen it a number of times."
Vet clinics in Paxton, Urbana boarding displaced animals
Meg Dickinson reports: Animal Clinic of Paxton is allowing residents to board their pets for as long as needed, said Dr. Kim Bunag, and by afternoon, space there was filling up.
Crossroads Veterinary Clinic north of Urbana has agreed to board any animals the Paxton clinic doesn't have space for, and also donated dog food to feed animals staying in Paxton.
While those who have lost their homes or can't stay there can often stay with family or in a hotel, it can be harder to find a space for pets, Bunag said.
Volunteers have offered to walk dogs, as well, Bunag said.
You can contact the clinic at 217-379-3800.
Gov. Quinn to tour Gifford
Gov. Pat Quinn is scheduled to visit Gifford at 3:30 p.m. today as part of a tour of damaged areas in Illinois.
Quinn will make an appearance at Gifford Community Center on Main Street before heading to Brookport.
Help on the way
The Champaign Public Works department sent eight staff members and equipment to Gifford on Monday to help with the cleanup. They will be under the direction of the Champaign County Emergency Management Agency when they get there.
Jim Rossow reports that a prayer service will take place at 7:30 p.m. today at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Gifford.
“It just might be by candlelight,” said Jim Bednarz, who lives in Gifford.
Bednarz, a Champaign Police patrolman whose house — located north of U.S. 136 — was not damaged by Sunday’s tornado, said the church is being used as a hub for residents and volunteers needing hot food or simply a break.
Today through Wednesday, food will be served at the church for “anyone who needs it: workers, volunteers, residents,” St. Paul’s pastor Steven Lombardo said this afternoon.
Bednarz spent much of Monday morning helping clear debris in Gifford. He wasn’t alone.
“It’s times like these that bring out the best in people,” he said. “You hear stories of looting in Washington and it’s nothing like that here. It’s the exact opposite. It’s neighbors helping neighbors.”
Terry Strom, pastor at Trinity Lutheran in Urbana whose in-laws’ house in Gifford was destroyed Sunday afternoon, returned to the site Monday morning. Strom said he followed a convoy of “6 to 7 power trucks” into the city.
“It’s just a hub of activity,” Strom said today. “Everybody’s working together.”
Illini coaches weigh in
University of Illinois football coach Tim Beckman talked about Gifford Monday morning:
"That hits us directly," he said. "If we are able to today, we will take some football players; if we are able to help in any way, shape or form, this football team is willing to do that. Our best goes out to that area."
Illinois volleyball coach Kevin Hambly made it a point to salute Gifford during a Monday news conference on campus.
"To see that happen in your home state, that really hits home," Hambly said. "That's something that's on our whole team's mind."
Said soccer coach Janet Rayfield: "Our team wants to express our thoughts and prayers."
Families with ALS or any type of muscular dystrophy needing assistance are asked to call the MDA office at 217-351-1853.
The Champaign County Chamber of Commerce has established an emergency relief grant program to help businesses in the Gifford area — and elsewhere in the county — recover from damage related to the weekend storms.
Businesses could use the money for building materials, labor costs associated with rebuilding and direct costs related to business operations.
They could also use the grants to replace inventory, meet payroll, pay bills and buy new equipment such as computers, printers and office supplies.
"The size of the grants will be based on the amount we raise," said Laura Weis, the chamber president and CEO. "The goal is to start making the grants available as soon as next week."
Donations can be made payable to: Community Foundation of East Central Illinois, c/o Business Emergency Relief Grant Program, 307 W. University Ave., Champaign, IL 61820.
Checks can also be dropped off at the chamber of commerce office, 303 W. Kirby Ave., C,
Weis said she hopes the chamber's 1,200 members can donate to the program so affected businesses can have cash to bridge their operations until they can get affairs in order.
Having the Community Foundation act as fiscal agent will allow for donations to be tax-deductible, the chamber stated in a release.
Any unused money will remain in the grant program for businesses that might need it in the future.
According to the chamber, the Federal Emergency Management Agency reports that 40 percent of businesses don't reopen after a disaster and another 25 percent fail in the first year after a disaster.
The U.S. Small Business Administration indicates the failure rate increases to 90 percent the second year after a disaster, the chamber stated.
No power till late tonight for Gifford.
News-Gazette staff writer Tom Kacich sends this via Twitter : "Sheriff Walsh says prob no power into Gifford until late tonight. Then individual homes will be hooked up."
United Way collecting bottled water at two Champaign locations
The United Way of Champaign County will collected bottled water for tornado relief between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. Monday at the WDWS/WHMS/WKIO radio station at 2301 S. Neil St., C.
Those who want to donate can drive through to drop off water.
The organization is also accepting bottled water at its office between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at its office at 404 W. Church St., C.
Day 2 of the Gifford cleanup is in full swing
Champaign church collecting supplies, will deliver this evening
Grace Lutheran Church in Champaign is collecting aid supplies for tornado victims in Gifford. Supplies will be delivered to Gifford as early as this evening and will continue as needed and available. Examples of items needed: moving boxes and materials, plastic totes, blankets, towels, bar soap, toothpaste and toothbrushes, toilet paper, non-perishable foods, bottled water, disposable gloves and masks for clean-up crews. Please bring to Grace Lutheran Church, 313 S. Prospect Ave, C.
United Way assisting with tornado relief
William Schlunaker of Parrot Palace animal rescue in Georgetown said he can board birds of all shapes and sizes, but said he hasn't heard from any Gifford residents yet.
Parrot Palace is a rescue licensed with the state's department of agriculture, Schlunaker said.
“I'm just trying to do my part,” he said.
If you need to find a place for your bird, you can contact him at 217-799-3227.