Tornado destroys Illinois town; disaster relief 'pulling together' community in crisis

by Karen L. Willoughby |

(ABC Eyewitness News/SCREEN SHOT)

FAIRDALE, Ill. (Christian Examiner) – Community members are "pulling together" with disaster relief agencies in an unincorporated town 80 miles northwest of Chicago where a tornado hit last night nearly leveling the area where there are about 50 homes but no churches.

Seventeen homes were completely destroyed, several were swept off their foundations, and there is little remaining in most of the others.

Geraldine Schultz, 67, was killed, eight were hospitalized and about 150 other people were displaced when one of at least two tornados plowed through six north-central Illinois counties. They were part of a storm system of "enhanced risk" that stretched from northeast Texas to Michigan, Wisconsin and across the Upper Midwest, according to the National Weather service.

"We've seen many storms and wind damage and houses down before, but nothing like this to my memory," DeKalb County Sheriff Roger Scott told local media.

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, the Salvation Army and the Red Cross all are on alert.

"We're working with a pastor in Ashton; he's going to be showing us around the area. We're in the early assessment stage, seeing where the damage is and if we can get to it."
- Rex Alexander, director of Disaster Relief for the ISBA

"We're working with a pastor in Ashton; he's going to be showing us around the area," Rex Alexander, director of Disaster Relief for the Illinois State Baptist Association told the Christian Examiner. "We're in the early assessment stage, seeing where the damage is and if we can get to it."

The entire town of Fairdale probably is cordoned off to keep out looters, Alexander said in a phone conversation as he was driving with three others from Springfield, Ill., to Ashton, where Brad Pittman, pastor of Grace Fellowship Church in Ashton and Davis Junction, was out determining where to take the Disaster Relief team.

"It went a little north of here," Grace Fellowship Church Administrative Assistant Marcie Kasmar told the Christian Examiner. "Right around the [Ashton] church here, I'm looking out at the fields now and not seeing much."

In Fairdale, rescue crews plan to stop at every house for a second time, to make sure every resident is accounted for, according to a report by ABC's Chicago affiliate.

People left homeless by the tornado were able to stay with friends and family overnight. A few went to the nearby Rochelle High School, where the American Red Cross had set up a temporary shelter.

The Salvation Army said it has three food trucks enroute to the affected areas, stocked with food, snacks and water to provide materials support to first responders, emergency crews, victims and others affected by the tornado.

"Everyone is pulling together like we do in these small towns," said Kirkland Mayor Les Bellah. "I can't say enough about how everyone is pulling together."