Wild weather rips through Illinois, Wisconsin

Cleanup begins after wild weather rips through Illinois and Wisconsin
January 8, 2008 8:53:06 PM PST
Tornadoes touched down in Illinois and in southern Wisconsin Monday creating a scene of devastation in towns along the border.

Mild weather turned to wild weather across the nation's mid-section. Rooftops ripped away, trees toppled. Many homes and businesses were destroyed.

Who thinks about a tornado in January? Fortunately, the National Weather Service was Monday. They got the warning out early, and perhaps because of that, this twister which caused a lot of damage did not take any lives.

There is not much left of Wheatland, Wisconsin, resident Ed Borrie's home. At least 25 homes were destroyed and many more damaged in Wheatland. None of the Borries were at home when the twister hit. The whole family returned Tuesday with friends to take it all in.

"You can't put words to it. You know, unfathomable where to begin and what to do next," said Borrie.

Jeorjie Pittelkow snapped a picture of the tornado and huddled in the basement with her children as the 150 mph winds slammed their subdivision.

"It went up and came down and it went back up, down and then it just went really fast," said Pittelkow.

It lasted just seconds. When the Pittelkows came out of their basement they saw the landscape had changed, debris everywhere and rubble where neighbors' homes once stood.

"All my time here I've never ever seen any damage to this degree," said Sheriff David Beth, Kenosha County. "So this is something that I've only seen on TV that happens in other places. But here in the middle of January, this is absolutely incredible that this happened for us."

Tuesday afternoon, Wisconsin's governor Jim Doyle came for a look at the devastation. And, like everyone else, he is amazed, given the severity of the damage, that there were no deaths or serious injuries.

"Thank God. It is -- you know, other tornadoes I've seen have been accompanied with considerable more physical or harm to people including death, and we're just very thankful that everybody's safe," Doyle said.

What most certainly helped were the early warnings that bad weather was imminent, both broadcast warnings and the sirens which were wailing on a very warm January day.

"You see these things. There's tornadoes other places. You see it. You see people getting struck with devastation. But you just don't think it's going to happen to you," said Melanie Capeli, Wheatland resident.

One-hundred-sixty people are now at least temporarily homeless because of the storm.

The tornado that hit this subdivision at Wheatland was one of three twisters the National Weather Service has confirmed touched down in Kenosha County. The one in Wheatland was ranked as an EF3, which is a pretty powerful tornado.

Again: No loss of life, 15 people were injured. The most serious injury was a broken arm.