Fairdale, Rochelle still recovering 1 month after deadly tornadoes

FAIRDALE, Ill. (WLS) -- Saturday will be one month since deadly tornadoes touched down in north central Illinois, leveling many homes in Fairdale and Rochelle.

Fairdale is virtually a ghost town now. Almost all of the homes were destroyed and now that the debris has been cleaned up, there is empty land all around. Some of the residents have decided they are not coming back.

Where homes once stood a month ago, an EF-4 tornado tore them down. On Friday, one day shy of the one-month anniversary, there is not much left.

Flowers mark the spots where two elderly neighbors, Geri Schulz and Jackie Klosa, were killed. They didn't make it out of their homes. The United States flag flies overhead. A Virgin Mary statue creates a shrine that looks over the town and its people that have been through so much.

"It's made them a lot prouder to be small-town America," Kirkland mayor Les Bellah said.

Gone are the hundreds of volunteers and the swarms of strangers looking to help clean-up. What's left are people like Danny Cook, who grew up here. That home is gone, but his grandfathers' remains, so he works to get it back to what it once was.

"A lot of work, it's been hectic trying to help everybody cleanup as best we can," Cook said.

Fairdale has changed, forever.

"It will never be the same, it will never be the same. It'll be a smaller town than it was, I'm afraid," Mayor Bellah said.

It's a different scene about 20 miles away in Rochelle, where the sights and sounds of rebuilding are all around. We checked in with Ogle County Sheriff Brian Van Vickle, who lost his home on April 9.

"We had a foundation and the debris left from our house," Van Vickle said. "Today we are well underway, I'll have a roof on the house next week."

He is now in temporary housing and he anticipates finishing sometime this fall. The neighborhood is slowing coming together, piece by piece.

Donations are still pouring in and both towns are part of long-term recovery committees, ensuring residents get all the help they need. And they will need it for a long time to come.

There is some good news for those that want to rebuild in Rochelle. The long-term recovery committee of Ogle County said they'll begun dispersing donated funds in the coming weeks.

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