Boy seriously injured in Caledonia tornado

November 23, 2010 (CALEDONIA, Ill.)

Experts say it was an EF2 tornado with winds of 135 miles an hour.

Some residents said they heard howling winds just moments before homes and barns were crumbled and trees were snapped in half.

The winds bent power lines and left debris scattered across fields. Approximately 42,000 ComEd customers were without power at the height of the storm.

In addition, several children were injured when their school bus was blown over by the tornado. Nine-year-old Michael Wood was one of the five children on the bus.

"I thought I was going to die from it," said Michael.

Michael is recovering at home and talking about the tornado that he says nearly took his life.

"The bus went in the air, and then I got knocked out. And then I woke up with blood all over my face, and my head was bleeding," Michael told ABC 7's Eric Horng.

On Monday, law enforcement and Rockford school officials said no one on board the bus, including the driver, was seriously hurt. But Michael's mother says her son fractured his vertebrae and is scheduled to see a neurologist next week.

"They were doing a CAT scan of his back, and they said major, major, major injuries to him, not minor, major," said Donna Wood, mother.

Across hard-hit Caledonia, Ill., ComEd crews scrambled to restore power Tuesday as the community's loss began to sink in.

"Lot of memories. Been here 30 years," said tornado victim Penny Kolb through tears.

Tim Collins has lived in the town since he was five. His home, which he rehabbed with his father, is the only one he has ever really known.

"Reminds me of my dad a lot," said Collins.

Several residents in Caledonia will not have homes this Thanksgiving, but they say they are thankful everyone survived. Most residents of the town with about six streets were still without power late Tuesday morning.

Some of them were assessing the damage and cleaning up in bitterly cold weather.

Caledonia, Ill., located 15 miles northeast of Rockford, is home to approximately 200 residents and 50 houses. Many of the homes were mangled in the storm.

Resident Mike Coil and his friends were using chain saws Tuesday to chop up the tree that was laying on his home of 11 years, which was cut in two during the storm.

"Over half the house is gone. You go inside, the only rooms left [are] the kitchen and dining room and maybe two of the upstairs bedrooms. We can't get upstairs. Everything else is pretty well caved in. The basement is caved in on this side. So, I'm sure it'll have to be a whole, brand new house," Coil told ABC7 Chicago.

Coil says he can only think about getting through Tuesday and this week. He, his wife, and their kids are staying with friends and family, but after that, he says he is not sure what's next.

"It's hard to talk about it, but we had a lot of sweat-- we've redone the whole house in the last five or six years," he said.

Caledonia resident Howard Yakey says he lost everything in his shed, including his pick-up truck when part of a grain elevator slammed on top of it.

"I was out in the country working, and I was talking to my wife when all of a sudden she shouted, 'I got to go to the basement. The door just blew off the house,'" Yakey said.

Boone County sheriff's officers were not letting the general public into the town for safety reasons Tuesday, but they escorted ABC 7 through the tattered streets.

The garage holding the village equipment collapsed, and power lines were down around town. Emergency management officials say four homes are unlivable. Some area schools were closed Tuesday because of safety concerns around the area. Those buildings, however, was not affected.

The drastic weather change, from 65 to about 25 degrees, also made clean-up efforts more challenging.

Boone County officials say it will be a long recovery process, especially because another tornado hit an area nearby recently.

"We're a rural community. So, a lot of our economy is based on farming. When tornadoes come through like the one two years ago in January came through, a lot of the farms, a lot of the equipment and stuff was hit. Same thing happened this time," said Sandra Rogers, emergency management coordinator for Boone County.

Emergency management officials say it could be at least another day before power is restored to many of the homes.

The twister damaged some important buildings, including the post office, fire department, elementary school and a church. In addition, at least half a dozen homes and businesses are a total loss.

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