Twisters touch down in East Central Illinois
Some roads were flooded in Douglas County this morning after storms brought tornadoes, high winds and heavy rains on Wednesday.
But the storms throughout East Central Illinois – including at least seven confirmed tornadoes – caused no injuries and little damage, officials said.
Four tornadoes touched down in Douglas County on Wednesday afternoon but caused no property damage, according to Joe Victor, director of Douglas County's Emergency Management Agency. Three more confirmed tornadoes touched down in Champaign County, according to Bill Keller, Victor's counterpart in Champaign County.
"We were fortunate," Victor said this morning.
He said some Douglas County roads were flooded this morning with up to 8 inches of water. The flooding was "pretty much west of (U.S.) 45" and near the Douglas-Champaign county line, he said.
He said the tornadoes in Douglas County happened within about a half-hour, and were followed by four "microbursts," straight-line winds that kicked up earth from fields.
"There were entire cornfields that were just one big cloud of dust," he said, including one field where the winds produced a wall of dust 18 feet high.
Three of the twisters were in the northwest part of the county, Victor said.
Atwood Fire Chief Joe Dukeman watched two of them.
"I watched the two of them, one big one with a smaller one following, for several miles, until they left the county," Dukeman said. "They were going straightline across the sections and missing everything on the ground.
"It was hard to follow them," Dukeman said. "The wind was whipping rain and dirt so hard visibility was down to about 5 feet straight in front of me."
He said some areas were without power, but that wasn't caused by the tornadoes.
Another confirmed tornado was on the ground near the Douglas-Champaign county line, about midway between Tuscola and Villa Grove, before it moved north toward Pesotum.
Three confirmed tornadoes touched down in southern Champaign County, according to Keller.
A number of funnel clouds also were sighted aloft without touching down, he said.
"The good news is we, to our knowledge, have no damage anywhere in the county," Keller said this morning, "other than a couple tree limbs and maybe a power pole."
The storms were "a major surprise," he said, in that no tornado watch had been issued before they appeared.
"We had to advise the National Weather Service to issue a warning because they could not see the tornadoes" on their radar, said Keller.
At midafternoon, a line of severe storms moved through the area, crossing into Champaign County at the southwest corner near Ivesdale.
The public and trained storm-spotters alike reported seeing several tornadoes and funnel clouds near Ivesdale and Sadorus. Severe storms were reported with heavy rain near Tolono. Tornado sirens sounded in downtown Champaign and elsewhere.
Flash flood warnings were issued for southeastern Champaign County and southwestern Vermilion County. Keller said some roads were flooded for a time on Wednesday, but that water had dissipated this morning.
A group of students visiting the Champaign County Historical Museum in downtown Champaign was kept at the museum until the storm passed. The Champaign school district delayed dismissal while the storms moved through.
Piatt County Emergency Services and Disaster Agency Coordinator Charles Morris said there was no reported damage in his county.
News-Gazette correspondent William Payne and staff writers Mary Schenk, Debra Pressey and Michael Howie contributed to this report.