The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

November 19, 2013

Mother Nature hits county hard

Storm assessments, cleanup under way

Staff Report
The Commercial-News

---- — DANVILLE — Damage assessments and clean-up continued Monday in the aftermath of Sunday’s line of storms.

As of 6 a.m. Monday morning, almost everyone in Danville had power restored, according to Mayor Scott Eisenhauer. There still could have been a household here or there that might not have had power yet.

Most households, however, had electricity back by 11:30 p.m. Sunday, Eisenhauer added.

There still were issues overnight in the areas of Chateau Estates, Denvale and Devonshire. Power was restored in those areas by about 3:30 a.m. Monday.

Eisenhauer said there also were power lines down in the Heights, but those issues were corrected by about 6 a.m. Monday.

Ameren crews were working day and night to restore power. Several hundred people in Vermilion County still were without power Monday afternoon. According to Ameren’s website, 140 residences in the 61832 ZIP code remained without power as of 2:15 p.m. Monday, along with 261 residences in Westville’s ZIP code and another 166 places in the 61834 area.

Power outages with the storm were reported the length of the county, from Hoopeston to Ridge Farm. There had been more than 31,330 customers without power Sunday.

Residents can call Ameren at (800) 755-5000 to report power or natural gas issues.

The high winds Sunday afternoon damaged the three transmission lines feeding electricity to the city. Ameren crews fixed the western transmission line that had been under maintenance to restore power to the city.

“One transmission line is enough to power the whole city long term,” Eisenhauer said.

Sunday also saw some railroad crossings blocked with a train due to tree debris that fell on the railroad tracks, Eisenhauer said.

Some traffic signals with battery backups remained working in the city. The city brought in large spotlights to help light up some intersections.

“We have city inspectors out looking for any debris or damage,” Eisenhauer said on Monday.

No major damage, accidents or injuries were reported with the storm. There was one fire blamed on candles on Tennessee Street. Lost Internet service, cable and phone service also was starting to come back for residents.

The storm also interrupted the Festival of Trees, and the gathering of elves to break a world record has been rescheduled for Thursday.

Out in the county, Vermilion County Emergency Management Agency Director Ted Fisher said Monday afternoon, “We still have damage assessment crews out. I have not seen their reports.

“Most of the damage seems to be north of Westville near Lyons Road, with mobile homes destroyed, roofs damaged, power poles down, a lot of tree damage and some vehicle damage,” he said.

Damage reports in the Hoopeston area included power poles being down in several locations, roof damage near Orange and South Market streets, a farm building being destroyed, trees down on Chestnut Street and a rail crossing gate that was damaged.

Indiana damage

About 1:55 p.m. EST Sunday, a tornado hit the northern Vermillion County community of Rileysburg, Ind., according to Vermillion County Sheriff Robert Spence.

A release from his office said the Community Church in Rileysburg was destroyed, and the business of Brannin and Sons Implement was damaged, along with several homes. A train car from the CSX railroad was overturned during the storm and has left the railway completely blocked.

Spence also noted two mobile homes on Vermillion County County Road 1650, just west of The Beef House restaurant, were overturned and destroyed. The release said two men who were in one of the homes were sent to a local hospital with head injuries. None of the injured had life-threatening injuries. The other trailer home was not being occupied when the storm hit.

Lots of alarms

With the power outage, Eisenhauer said the restored power was resetting a lot of alarm and other systems. There also was a minor incident with the 911 center and generators, reported Public Safety Building Director Larry Thomason.

“Everything is returning to normal,” Eisenhauer said. “Danville came out of (the storms) very well.”

Eisenhauer thanks Ameren, city crews and others who assisted after the storms.

Eisenhauer said Facebook and smart phones were the best way he could communicate information as soon as he knew it about the storm on Sunday.

“I’m a big believer in the way in which you are best in control is get accurate information out as quickly as possible,” he said. With radio and Internet services out, people still had access to mobile devices.

“One of the fastest ways to move a message is through Facebook,” Eisenhauer said.

He continued updating Facebook with power outage and other information.

“It really was a very powerful tool to move messages in a very expeditious fashion,” he said.

It also worked in reverse, for the public to alert city officials to issues with the storm, he added.

“It was absolutely a wonderful resource to use,” he said. “It also helped us to really combat early rumors and debunk that with accurate information.”

When the storm hit, Eisenhauer was at the Festival of Trees with numerous other people. He said the situation was handled wonderfully and some festival officials grabbed books off the book tree to read to the children and keep their minds off the storm.

At a media briefing at the Public Works Building on Voorhees Street Sunday night, Eisenhauer and other city officials discussed damage and city operations following the storm. There was some localized flooding and a less than a dozen trees down from the storm. Some windows in the downtown area also were damaged on buildings.

Emergency management officials reported several instances of tornado damage as a result of storms that plowed through central Illinois on Sunday.

Storms coming from the southwest rushed through Vermilion County early in the afternoon, bringing high winds, rain and tornado damage from Westville north to Hoopeston.

According to reports to the National Weather Service in Lincoln, local officials noted tornado damage in the Catlin area, where two farmhouses were damaged by tornado three miles southwest of the village, while two farms were reported destroyed two miles southeast of Catlin. Tornado damage to machine sheds was also reported in the Jamaica area.

Tornado damage also was reported near Westville, where trees and power poles were downed. In addition there was damage to the high school and a mobile home. A tornado also was reported north of Westville on County Road 1350N, west of Illinois Route 1.

On the northern edge of the county, a trained spotter reported sporadic tornado damage from three miles west of Hoopeston to northeast of the county line. Several barns were severely damaged as well as an irrigation system destroyed. A roof was blown off a machine shed.

In addition, five farm houses in that area were heavily damaged.

Thunderstorms near Danville resulted in a roof off a home three miles south of the city. In addition, damage was reported at Cannon School as well as numerous businesses along North Vermilion Street.

Festival changes

The storm also closed the Festival of Trees, which opened Saturday and runs through Thursday at the David S. Palmer Arena.

The closure meant that the Polar Express, which was to run Sunday evening, was rescheduled to Monday night. People who had purchased tickets, but were unable to attend will receive a full refund. For refunds, contact the arena box office at 431-2424.

Also affected was the World Record attempt for the largest elf gathering, which was supposed to be Sunday night. It has been rescheduled for Thursday night in conjunction with the Night of Lights parade. People wanting to participate should be advised that the location has changed. Elves should check in at the Kresge lot in Downtown Danville beginning at 4:30 p.m. and the official elf count will be held at 6 p.m.

Family Day, with free entrance for children, veterans and military personnel has been rescheduled from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday. As for Pickle Day, the hunt for the hidden pickle ornaments will continue Tuesday. The Children’s Craft Area now will be open from 4-9 p.m., and the Holiday Café will be open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Volunteers are still needed for some areas. If you are able to volunteer from now through Thursday, contact the volunteer hotline at 597-5801, or e-mail mcmillanm@danville.k12.il.us.

INFO BOX: A Danville business is collecting items for tornado victims in Gifford and Mellott, Ind. Darci Dreher, a nursing supervisor at Whitestar Home Health Care, 108 N. Vermilion St., said the business will be collecting donations until Friday. "We sent a truckload of items in the spring to Oklahoma City, so we're going off that list again," she said. The items being collected include: diapers and wipes, bottled water, Gatorade, non-perishable food items, brand new pillows and blankets, medical supplies, animal supplies, toiletries, safety glasses and face masks, and rakes and shovels. Dreher said the business is not accepting clothing because the Methodist Church in Rantoul is collecting clothing for the Gifford victims. More information is available by calling Whitestar at 442-0605.