News / USA

    For Illinois Tornado Survivors, Relief is Just Being Alive

    Residents sort through the rubble after their home was destroyed during a tornado in Washington, Illinois, Nov. 19, 2013.
    Residents sort through the rubble after their home was destroyed during a tornado in Washington, Illinois, Nov. 19, 2013.
    Reuters
    After breaking her leg late last year, having a double mastectomy in the summer and seeing her house destroyed by a tornado that swept through Washington, Illinois, on Sunday, Kim Wright said her luck was due to change.
     
    “They say bad luck comes in threes and I've had my three,” Wright, 56, said on Wednesday, standing in the pulverized wreckage of what just three days ago had been her home. “I'm due now for some good fortune.”
     
    Five minutes later a group of people who were cleaning up the debris of a house 100 feet (30 meters) away pulled Wright's cat, Fred, out of the rubble, alive.
     
    “Oh my God, he's everything to me,” she said through tears of joy, running to collect her cat.

    An aerial view shows the path of destruction caused by a tornado that touched down in Washington, Illinois, Nov. 18, 2013.An aerial view shows the path of destruction caused by a tornado that touched down in Washington, Illinois, Nov. 18, 2013.
    x
    An aerial view shows the path of destruction caused by a tornado that touched down in Washington, Illinois, Nov. 18, 2013.
    An aerial view shows the path of destruction caused by a tornado that touched down in Washington, Illinois, Nov. 18, 2013.
    ​The fast-moving storm system that rolled destructively through the Midwestern United States killed eight people in two states and may have caused $1 billion in property damage. It damaged around 1,000 homes in Washington, a small city located about 150 miles (240 km) southwest of Chicago.
     
    As cleanup work proceeded on Wednesday, many homeowners like Wright who were home when the storm hit said they felt lucky to be alive.
     
    “If it weren't for the sirens, I would be dead,” said Wright, who made it to her basement in time. “You'd be sifting through the wreckage looking for pieces of me.”
     
    Crews had worked overnight to clear the streets in the neighborhood that was devastated by the tornado, with heavy equipment in the area hauling out debris. Volunteers walked the streets offering water, gloves or heating pads to people sifting through debris for their belongings.
     
    More than 130,000 homes and businesses in the U.S. Midwest remained without power on Wednesday morning following severe thunderstorms Sunday night, according to local power companies. There had been over 800,000 outages on Monday morning.
     
    'Used to weather'
     
    Ed Henderson, 41, was replacing the power steering pump on his Ford F-350 pickup truck when he heard the sirens on Sunday.
     
    “We're used to weather in Illinois so like any good resident of Illinois I stuck around to see what was happening,” he said cheerfully, spitting tobacco juice on the ground.
     
    About 10 minutes later he saw the tornado touch down a quarter of a mile (half a kilometer) from his house, hurling debris through the air. Hearing the freight train-type sound often referred to by tornado survivors, he threw himself down the basement stairs as all the windows in the house blew out.
     
    Henderson's house is no more, his chimney is in the front yard, his truck about 600 feet (180 meters) behind the house and all he can find of his 30 foot (nine meters) camper is the spare wheel and air conditioning unit. His dogs were trapped under a door, which saved their lives.
     
    “The way I'm looking at it, I got off pretty lightly,” Henderson said.
     
    Many others here were lucky because they were at church when the tornado hit. When Dick Stinson, 65, and his family returned home their house was almost entirely gone and his pickup truck was lodged in his neighbor's living room.
     
    Stinson plans to rebuild and hopes to back in a new house on the same spot in six months.
     
    “We were very blessed that none of us was hurt,” he said, surveying the smashed wood and other detritus that formerly constituted his place of residence. “As for the rest of it, all we lost was stuff. And that's all it is, just stuff.”

    You May Like

    Native Americans Ask: What About Our Water Supply?

    They say they have been facing a dangerous water contaminant for decades - uranium – but the problem has received far less attention than water contamination by lead in Flint, Michigan

    Pakistan's President Urges Nation Not to Celebrate Valentine's Day

    Mamnoon Hussain criticizes Valentine's Day, which falls on Sunday this year, as a Western import that threatens to undermine the Islamic values of Pakistan

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Ugandai
    X
    Serginho Roosblad
    February 12, 2016 9:29 PM
    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video Refugees in Kenya Vie to Compete in Rio Olympics

    In Kenya, refugees from other African nations are training at a special camp and competing for a limited number of slots in this year's Rio Olympics under the flag of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Ngong, this is a first in Olympic history.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.