FAIRDALE, Ill. — Residents of a small northern Illinois farming community that took a direct hit from a half-mile-wide tornado were allowed back into the area Saturday to assess damage and salvage what they could.
The DeKalb County Sheriff's Office bused residents into Fairdale at 7 a.m. so they could begin to take stock of what was left of their property. Seeing the wreckage up close for the first time since Thursday's storms left some amazed that they survived.
"I thought my parents were dead," said 32-year-old Adam Davis, who hopped into his truck Thursday and raced along with the tornado in the hopes of getting to his parents' house and rescuing them before the twister struck. He found them standing in their doorway frozen in disbelief and grabbed them just in time.
On Saturday, he was helping collect what could be salvaged from his childhood home, now full of debris, its roof ripped off and its windows broken. "It's not necessarily the mementos yet; it's the essentials for now. One step at a time," he said.
Eight tornadoes roared across northern and central Illinois during Thursday's storms, the National Weather Service confirmed Saturday. The strongest hit Fairdale, where two people were killed. That tornado also injured 22 people.
The weather service gave it a preliminary EF4 rating — its second strongest — with winds of between 180 and 200 mph. It was a half-mile wide and remained on the ground for at least 28.7 miles, a record long path for that part of Illinois.
In all, some 70 buildings were destroyed or damaged in Fairdale, authorities said. Another 50 buildings were hit in nearby Rochelle. All buildings have been searched, but not all residents have been accounted for, so cadaver dogs are being used in parts of DeKalb County, the Illinois State Police said late Friday.
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