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Illinois twisters: 'Whole neighborhoods where there's nothing left'

Tornadoes and Wind Storms

A rare November tornado destroyed homes as it ripped through at least two central Illinois towns Sunday, as authorities moved quickly to respond. There were reports of some three-dozen injuries and residents were said to be trapped in the wreckage.

In Tazewell County, Ill., county spokeswoman Sara Sparkman told The Times that there were “whole neighborhoods where there’s nothing left” in the towns of Washington and Pekin.

“We have heard of minor injuries," Sparkman said, an assessment echoed by county emergency personnel immediately after the twister, which uprooted trees and power lines while smashing homes into rubble.

OSF Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria reported on its Facebook page that it had received 35 patients from the tornado in its emergency room, including seven “trauma cases.”

News reports from the scene said there may be people unable to get out of damaged homes.

“We’ve got several residences where people are trapped," radioed one Tazewell County emergency responder immediately after the storm hit.

Another added, “I have multiple people coming up to me with reports of injured people that they can’t provide a street or address because everything’s gone."

Those reports could not be confirmed, however.

Sparkman said there was no immediate tally on the number of structures damaged or destroyed and that officials were working to move community members in shelters as darkness approached.

Seven members and associates of a punk-rock band from Memphis, Tenn., traveling on tour, were hit by a possible tornado while driving on an interstate east of Peoria and credited their equipment with saving their lives.

Joshua Cannon, 21, a singer and guitarist for the band Pillow Talk, said in an interview that his fellow bandmate Calvin Labeur, 19, was driving the band's white GMC Suburban when Labeur suddenly said, “Guys, we’re about to be in the middle of a tornado."

Labeur said he suddenly saw what "almost looked like a mist, and two seconds later, there was debris everywhere."

Strong winds then hit the Suburban and shattered the vehicle's windows, cutting the heads and faces of five of the vehicle's seven occupants as the vehicle spun three times, the tires lifting off the ground.

“I accepted the fact I was about to die," Cannon said. "I looked at my best friend that I’ve been playing music with [all my life], and we were like, 'OK guys, this is it.' ”

But within 45 seconds, Cannon said, the vehicle came back to rest — on the other side of the interstate, facing oncoming traffic. The top of the trailer had been ripped open, and several of the passengers were bleeding, but they were alive, and had survived with only superficial injuries.

"We think the weight of the trailer is what saved us," Labeur said, counting off the amps, guitars and merch piled inside it — “every aspect of a full, live rock band that would be needed to do a show," he said, laughing at the possibility that, yes, punk rock had saved their lives.

The band had been headed for a show in Evanston, Ill., on Sunday night, but Labeur added, “Obviously, that’s canceled."

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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