Streator tornado cleanup continues

July 7, 2010 4:55:46 AM PDT
Life is far from returning to normal one month after devastating tornadoes hit several Illinois communities.

The town of Streator was the hardest hit, and storm victims say help is not coming in fast enough.

The National Weather Service determined the tornado that hit Streator was an EF-2 with wind speeds of up to 130 miles per hour.

The line of storms left a path of destruction from Streator to Dwight. While only one person was killed, property damage from the storms was widespread.

In a region where controlled wind is the ticket to the future, the fury of that force uncontrolled remains a sight to behold.

In Dwight, only desolation remains in a spot where 45 mobile homes used to be.

Joe Alksnis was dozing on his couch around 9 p.m. June 5 when his daughter called him and told him to get out.

His brother Frank Schoiber was trapped inside his trailer 50 yards away.

"They knew he was breathing, he was moaning, so that was a good sign anyway, I knew he was still alive, but... he was paralyzed anyway," said Dwight resident Joe Alksnas.

Alksnas's brother Frank died of his injuries two days after the tornado.

"You're never ready," said Dwight Village President Bill Wilkey. "There are certain things that we're going to try to do for the safety of the community."

The twister ripped up Dwight's roofs and baseball facilities in a straight line from the west. The first touchdown of the tornado is thought to have happened in Streator.

Homes had to be condemned due to the damage it caused, leading property damage estimates in the millions.

"We're in the process now of issuing permits to people to start the rebuilding process. There's been some demolition, but we are rebuilding," said Streator Mayor Jimmie Lansford.

The mayor of Streator took office just three-and-a-half months ago. He saluted the emergency experts who helped him guide his town's response to the tornados.

"We're still waiting for whether or not we're going to get designated as a federal disaster area," said Lansford.

Hardest hit was Streator's South Side Diamond neighborhood, where witnesses saw the tornado tear down Powell Street, shearing everything in its path, and set a course east on to Dwight.

One unemployed resident, Doreen Westbrook, whose house was largely destroyed by the storm, does not know what she will do now.

"I can't afford to do anything to that house... I don't have a job, I'm not working," said Westbrook.

Westbrook did not have insurance before the storm hit.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is still weighing what kind of assistance, if any, is going to be given to this region and if it does come, it's not going to come in the form of grants. It will come in small low-interest loans to small business to help with rebuilding.

A benefit concert for the area is set for Sunday, July 11.


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