For Jose Zavala of Urbana, Sunday's early morning storm was an ordeal he never wants to experience again.
Zavala, wife Claudia, daughter Natalia and son Louis were all at home at 2204 S. Race St. when a severe storm with heavy downpours and wicked, howling winds arrived.
"It was so horrible," Zavala said. "It felt like the windows were going to blow out."
Terrified, the Zavalas gathered seven-year-old Natalia and five-year-old Louis, and they all went into the crawl space.The winds blew faster, and the sounds loomed even larger.
When it was all over, Zavala and his family went outside to see what was left.
"My house was damaged and all my trees and my fence were damaged," he said.
"But me and my family were still alive," Zavala said. "Thank God."
Marcus Harris was awakened early Sunday by a call from one of his Rent Champaign employees who lives in south Urbana.
"He told me that a bunch of trees had blown down, so I came there to help him out," he said. "When I arrived, there were fallen trees everywhere."
Harris first encountered a couple who had a chunk of their roof blown off.
After Harris and others helped them, they found some senior citizens whose garage door was blocked by debris.
"We opened the garage door, so they could get their car out," he said.
Another home had lost so much of its roof that Harris and others put a tarp on it.
According to Harris, a 3,300-pound chunk of a roof had flipped over into the front yard, and a port-a-potty had blown away.
"The whole thing turned out to be a neighborhood project," Harris said.
Was it a tornado or just a strong storm that caused so much damage? As of Sunday afternoon, meteorologist Eric Laufenberg at the National Weather Service in Lincoln said staff was still studying the matter.
Laufenberg said that Champaign-Urbana can expect more severe storms on Tuesday.
Urbana Public Works Operations Supervisor Brad Osterbur said he believes a tornado touched down in a portion of the city early Sunday morning.
"I was there. I think we were hit directly by a tornado. I jumped out of my bed and heard the whole freight train sound and everything," Osterbur said.
Zavala also believes the Urbana storm was a twister "because it was so loud. It was like somebody blowing up the whole house."
Osterbur said public works crews began cleanup at 1:30 a.m. Sunday and planned on continuing until nightfall.
"An area from Scovill to McHenry took the brunt of it," Osterbur said. "It was pretty much contained to the area between Philo Road and Race Street."
Osterbur said the majority of the damage was from fallen trees "and the stuff the trees fell on."
In south Urbana, a roof was blown off of a house near Holmes and Race. Heavy damage was apparent in a block-wide swath in a neighborhood to the north of Meadowbrook Park.
By 3 p.m. Sunday, Osterbur reported all the regular streets had re-opened, but there was still work to do on culs-de-sac.
In Champaign, Public Works Administrative Services Supervisor Kris Koester said Sunday afternoon that 12 to 15 employees had been clearing areas since 2 a.m.
"The problem is mostly trees," Koester said. "We are looking at an area between Mattis Avenue on the west to Kirby Avenue on the north to Kirby Avenue on the east and Windsor Road to the west.There is a lot of damage along Broadmoor and many of the side streets."
Champaign city crews started clearing debris from Broadmoor Drive around 3 a.m. Area homes sustained broken trees and broken windows on Broadmoor, and there was significant tree damage around St. Matthew Catholic Church.
Koester said trees were blocking city streets and sidewalks.
"We had some uprooted trees," he said.
The National Weather Service reported a 54 mph gust at a station in Urbana, with Willard Airport reporting another at 63 mph.
Winds reached 57 mph at 1:47 a.m. in Sidney and 60 at 2 a.m. in Tilton.
In Savoy, the scene was similar to other hard-hit parts of Champaign County.
"It looks like a bomb went off," said Amanda Baker, whose family lives on Clover Leaf Court. "Huge, significant branches are 50 feet away from the trees. It looks like a tornado ripped through here."
In St. Joseph, two large trees fell on a house and several other trees either snapped or were uprooted.
Scattered trees were also reported down in Danville.
In response to the storm, Ameren Illinois activated its Emergency Operations Center at 3:30 a.m. Sunday to coordinate restoration in Champaign and Vermilion counties, according to spokesman Tucker Kennedy.
"Crews are working as quickly and safely as possible to assess and restore power," he advised. "When cleaning up storm debris, please use caution. Stay away from brush, downed trees and limbs that might be concealing downed power lines."