8 dead in Midwest storms; Brookport, Ill., was ‘a sitting duck’


Living in the Midwest can be a bit of a devil’s lottery when it comes to tornadoes, and on Sunday, several Midwestern communities drew a losing card. The death toll rose to eight Monday in Illinois and Michigan as officials sifted through damage and assessed losses.

In the central Illinois town of Washington, neighborhoods were flattened and dozens of residents were injured by a possible EF-4 tornado.

Residents and volunteers flooded churches and a local hotel, as people grappled with their losses.


“It’s just stuff ... that’s what I keep telling myself,” Lorelei Cox, a teacher whose house was in the direct path of the storm, told the Chicago Tribune. She and her husband, Dave, were dug out from under the debris by one of her former students, she said.

“People more than anything are just in shock,” said Crossroads Methodist Church Pastor Tom Goodell, whose church has become a bustling shelter. “They want to come in, want to be around other people, want to have people sit with them, pray with them, offer them hot coffee.”

Tragedies were also playing out in places such as Massac County, which rests along Illinois’ rugged and rural southern tip.

There, a tornado pounced on two tiny bedroom communities and claimed three lives.

“Everybody had fair warning. This thing developed over an hour-and-a-half-, a two-hour period,” said Larry Douglas, a volunteer and former manager of the Massac County Emergency Services and Disaster Agency. “It’s a shame anybody was in the path of it.”

Fifty residences, some of them mobile homes, were destroyed as the riverside community of Brookport was lashed by winds of a tornado that may have reached EF-3 in strength, officials said.

“We opened the door and started looking around. My friend had come over and a tree had landed on top of his car, broke out a couple windows. The house next to us, a tree fell through their roof,” one resident told the Chicago Tribune.


At least 11 injured made their way to hospitals in Paducah across the Ohio River. Paramedics were unable to revive one woman as they rushed her to a Paducah hospital, where she was declared dead, a McCracken County deputy coroner told The Times.

One bridge was damaged and closed -- something of a blessing on Monday, Douglas said, as the closure helped keep out sightseers while officials surveyed the broken wood and twisted metal that used to be homes.

“Brookport, the town proper, there’s no underground structures hardly at all,” Douglas said. “It’s next to the river, nobody would dig a basement.... It’s just a sitting duck.”

Nearby Unionville, which sits in a river bottom, suffered similar damage, Douglas said. Yet Paducah, just across the river, was largely unscathed.

Such scattershot damage and happenstance tragedy played out across several states in the Midwest as the storm’s toll came into better focus Monday.

For all the destruction in Washington, Ill., only one person had been reported killed there: The body of Steve Neubauer, 51, was found near his home.


About 200 miles south of Washington, an apparent tornado that killed area livestock also took the lives of Joseph Hoy, 80, and his sister Frances Hoy, 78, at their farmhouse.

To the north, in Michigan, where hundreds of thousands of residents lost power after intense winds swept the state, Ryan Allan Rickman, 21, of Dewey, Okla., was killed after his car was crushed by a tree, Jackson County Sheriff Steven Rand told the Chicago Tribune. Rickman was passing through the area when the tree toppled, crushing the roof of his car to the level of the doors, Rand said.

“He was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” the sheriff said.

In Shiawassee County, about 75 miles north, the body of Philip Daniel Smith, 59, of Perry was found wrapped in high-voltage power lines, said Sheriff’s Lt. David Kirk.


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Chicago Tribune reporter Carlos Sadovi contributed to this report.