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Tornado Damage Brings Disaster Declaration To Lee, Grundy Counties

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Andrew Epstein
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WNIJ
Just one of the hundreds of lightning bolts to streak through skies over northern Illinois Monday

Gov. Bruce Rauner has issued a disaster declaration for Lee and Grundy counties as a result of the tornadoes that ripped through northern Illinois on Monday.

Rauner surveyed tornado and storm damage in Lee County and in Coal City on Tuesday morning.

"It's a miracle, frankly, when you see the devastation that there were no deaths and no life-threatening injuries," Rauner said after viewing the damage in Coal City by helicopter.

The National Weather Service reported its assessment teams have confirmed at least two tornadoes with wind speeds between 111 mph and 135 mph touched down in northern Illinois late Monday. 
 One of those EF-2 funnels was in Lee County just south of the village of Sublette near Woodhaven Lakes campground.
The other went from Coal City to Braidwood on the Grundy and Will county line. 

Forecasters said the weather service's teams were continuing to assess damage and that more tornado confirmations were expected.
Initial damage surveys based on radar show at least seven possible tornado tracks.

At least two people were injured by a tornado in Coal City, a village of about 5,000 south of Chicago. The "Coal City Area Tornado - Official" Facebook page bars entry by outsiders:

No one will be allowed in Coal City today except residents and emergency personnel. We will post updates when they have given the ok for volunteer & relief efforts and will post location at that time. Thank you for your patience as the emergency personnel continue to make the area safe and the residents are able to access their damage and contact their insurance.

The Grundy Transit System announced that it has suspended service to Coal City for the day.

Coal City Police Sgt. Tom Logan told ABC News that many buildings, including the fire department, suffered substantial damage.

“Houses that were there once are just not there any more,” Logan said.

Shortly before 2 p.m. today, the Facebook page for the Coal City tornado posted a notice that anyone wishing to volunteer to help with the cleanup would have to preregister by downloading forms from the wecareofgrundy.com website and submit them in advance.

The Ready Illinois website says a shelter for storm victims has been set up at the Coal City United Methodist Church.

At Woodhaven Lakes, a tornado overturned trailers and snapped trees in the gated community. A spokesperson at the campground said officials were "still assessing the damage," which occurred primarily on the southern portion of the property, this morning.

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Credit Woodhaven Lakes Facebook Page
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Woodhaven Lakes posted this map showing the area damaged by Monday night's tornado.

The Woodhaven Lakes Facebook page noted that one person had been taken to a local hospital with a head injury, and various other minor injuries had been reported. The site also posted notice of closing:

Woodhaven and all of our facilities will be closed until further notice until staff and emergency personnel can fully assess the situation. No one will be allowed to access property except for emergency vehicles and authorized emergency personnel. Please do not come out to Woodhaven expecting to get on property ...

The Ellice Dinges Center in Sublette shelter is offering services to storm victims, according to ReadyIllinois.

Rauner also deployed Illinois Task Force 1, an 80-member search and rescue team, to help responders search for people who may have been trapped after a tornado tore through Woodhaven Lakes. Emergency responders also came from numerous fire departments across northern Illinois, including Rockford.

No one was injured when the roof and a wall collapsed in the Northland Mall in Sterling, a Whiteside County city between DeKalb and the Quad Cities.

Sterling Police Lt. Tim Morgan says flooding and downed trees added to the challenges caused by the high winds.

“There was a gas leak where the pipe broke, which has been turned off by the fire department," Morgan said. "Right now there’s no threat of anything further.” 

He said the Sterling police and fire departments also were kept busy routing traffic around tree limbs and flooded roadways.

Damage also was reported in Morrison, the county seat of Whiteside County, and in Harmon, a Lee County village northwest of Sublette.

These storms were part of a second wave of severe weather to move through the region Monday. 

  • WNIJ's Susan Stephens and Patrick Sheehan contributed to this story
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