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*** UPDATED x2 - Death toll rises *** Harrisburg hit hard by killer storm

Wednesday, Feb 29, 2012

* My photojournalist brother Devin is on his way to Harrisburg as I write this, so we may have more pics soon. But it looks bad

A hospital administrator in the southern Illinois city of Harrisburg says at least three people were killed in a severe storm that swept through the region.

Harrisburg Medical Center CEO Vince Ashley says the three victims were pronounced dead on arrival at that hospital in Saline County after the storm hit at about 5 a.m. Wednesday.

He couldn’t immediately say how many other victims were being treated at the hospital. He says the hospital itself also sustained some damage in the storm that knocked out the 78-bed site’s heating and cooling system. Ashley says no one at the hospital was injured.

* By the looks of this video from local TV, at least part of Harrisburg appears to have been flattened. Buildings are gone, roads are indiscernible and stuff is just scattered everywhere .

* A friend forwarded some recent photos from Harrisburg…

* This is what’s left of St. Joseph’s Church…

*** UPDATE - 9:26 am *** I just spoke with Rep. Brandon Phelps who was heartbroken to discover minutes ago that the granddaughter of his district office employee was found dead this morning. Phelps is on his way to Harrisburg now and said he’s had reports of people missing and trapped in debris. The SJ-R is reporting that Springfield firefighters are heading south to help.

…Adding… I’m told this is what’s left of the apartment building where that young woman lived. Apparently, several residents were killed or injured…

*** UPDATE 2 - 9:43 am *** The Harrisburg death toll has reportedly risen to 10 [UPDATE: The death toll has been revised downward to 6.] Let’s plug in a new ScribbleLive feed. Blackberry users click here

- Posted by Rich Miller        

36 Comments
  1. - Irish - Wednesday, Feb 29, 12 @ 9:23 am:

    Our thoughts and prayers are with those folks. I hope they had sufficient warning. That’s a tough time of day for a storm like this.


  2. - HoosierDaddy - Wednesday, Feb 29, 12 @ 9:31 am:

    That looks just awful, Rich. Pray for the people in Harrisburg. I lived through a tornado when I was a kid, and I never hope to see one again if I live to be a hundred.


  3. - John A Logan - Wednesday, Feb 29, 12 @ 9:31 am:

    Tragic.


  4. - Aldyth - Wednesday, Feb 29, 12 @ 9:36 am:

    A donation has just been sent to the Red Cross, targeted for use in Harrisburg.


  5. - SO IL M - Wednesday, Feb 29, 12 @ 9:40 am:

    Have been following the live reports on WSIL TV. Southern area of Harrisburg devastated. My thoughts and prayers to the families there.
    Other areas reporting major damage: Mounds, Wolf Lake, Marion, Lake of Egypt, Creal Springs, and Ridgway. But nothing to the extent of Harrisburg.


  6. - Way Way Down Here - Wednesday, Feb 29, 12 @ 9:41 am:

    ===I hope they had sufficient warning.===

    Locals report sirens sounded throughout the area moments before the storm hit.


  7. - SO IL M - Wednesday, Feb 29, 12 @ 9:42 am:

    The pic you have posted of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church is in Ridgeway.
    Latest update is over 100 injured and 200-300 homes destroyed in Harrisburg.


  8. - Old Shepherd - Wednesday, Feb 29, 12 @ 9:43 am:

    Local news just reported 10 confirmed deaths in Harrisburg.


  9. - Concerned Observer - Wednesday, Feb 29, 12 @ 9:46 am:

    Thoughts and prayers to Harrisburg, Eldorado, the whole area. Judging by the video, the devastation looks…well, devastating.


  10. - Concerned Observer - Wednesday, Feb 29, 12 @ 9:50 am:

    Just heard Saline County Sheriff confirming 10 dead, 100 injured.


  11. - Boone Logan Square - Wednesday, Feb 29, 12 @ 9:52 am:

    Just awful.

    http://www.redcross.org/donate/donate.html


  12. - Karen Wms - Wednesday, Feb 29, 12 @ 9:52 am:

    My parents were married at St Joseph’s Church in Ridgway over 50 years ago. I’m still waiting to hear from family members there. No word yet. Just praying all are okay.


  13. - SO IL M - Wednesday, Feb 29, 12 @ 9:59 am:

    Karen–
    WSIL reporting according to Gallatin County reporting only a few minor injuries. Hope your family came thru fine.


  14. - 3rd Generation Chicago Native - Wednesday, Feb 29, 12 @ 10:01 am:

    Thanks for sharing this, and all the pictures. This devastation is not on any Chicago News.


  15. - Karen Wms - Wednesday, Feb 29, 12 @ 10:01 am:

    Thanks for the update.


  16. - TCB - Wednesday, Feb 29, 12 @ 10:05 am:

    I have family scattered all over Johnson County, hopefully that area was spared…I’ll have to call a bunch of people now & make sure. I do know that last night one of my cousins posted on FaceBook that she was pretty worried about the storm that was coming.


  17. - SO IL M - Wednesday, Feb 29, 12 @ 10:10 am:

    wsiltv.com and wsil page on facebook really the most reliable updates as of now.


  18. - Deep South - Wednesday, Feb 29, 12 @ 10:13 am:

    Reports now of 10 fatalities in Harrisburg. 100s injured. Property damage is high.


  19. - TCB - Wednesday, Feb 29, 12 @ 10:14 am:

    All of my family is accounted for. Luckily, the major storms passed just north of them.


  20. - soccermom - Wednesday, Feb 29, 12 @ 10:21 am:

    So frustrating — our IT system won’t let me see Gatehouse pages because they have so much ad content. Grrr.


  21. - Karen Wms - Wednesday, Feb 29, 12 @ 10:30 am:

    All accounted for and no injuries! Lots of property damage though including one cousin’s house and another cousin’s tavern in Ridgway.


  22. - Stones - Wednesday, Feb 29, 12 @ 10:34 am:

    Devastating photos. Thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and their families.


  23. - Mark - Wednesday, Feb 29, 12 @ 10:45 am:

    terrible tragedy–prayers to all


  24. - amalia - Wednesday, Feb 29, 12 @ 10:46 am:

    prayers for the people of Harrisburg. condolences to the families and friends of the departed and injured. thanks to you for posting this, Rich, as there is very little Chicago coverage of the terrible tragedy. the photos are terrifying. this season is purported to be a big one for tornados. hoping the warnings can come earlier because as much as we think that they do come early, it seems they don’t come early enough. tragic.


  25. - mark walker - Wednesday, Feb 29, 12 @ 10:50 am:

    Good Lord, that’s an awful storm. I cannot believe it didn’t involve a major tornado. I am so sorry for those killed and injured.


  26. - LN - Wednesday, Feb 29, 12 @ 10:51 am:

    I agree with your brother Rich, this is by FAR one of the worst storms we’ve seen down here. In comparison to the May 8th storm a few years ago, the severity of the damage and the number of injuries/fatalities far surpasses what we saw then. This looks like Joplin, MO footage.


  27. - Scott217 - Wednesday, Feb 29, 12 @ 10:58 am:

    My father-in-law lives there. He spoke to my wife around 7; he’s unhurt, and his house wasn’t hit. He said the place was a mess (as we’re now seeing).


  28. - Jake From Elwood - Wednesday, Feb 29, 12 @ 10:59 am:

    Awful outcome. Thanks for the information.


  29. - Cal Skinner - Wednesday, Feb 29, 12 @ 11:47 am:

    Since it was night, it is unlikely that any little kids saw “butterfly people carrying people in the sky,” as they did in Joplin:

    http://mchenrycountyblog.com/2011/06/22/a-letter-from-joplin-%E2%80%93-part-6-%E2%80%93-the-butterfly-people/


  30. - 47th Ward - Wednesday, Feb 29, 12 @ 11:51 am:

    Thanks for the coverage Rich. My prayers are with the people of Harrisburg and vicinity, as well as with those responding to this emergency. God help them all.


  31. - Mouthy - Wednesday, Feb 29, 12 @ 12:25 pm:

    In spite of all the damage we were lucky 6 years and 12 days ago.


  32. - mokenavince - Wednesday, Feb 29, 12 @ 1:00 pm:

    Thanks Rich,these people have real problems. May God help them, we should all donate something to
    help these folks.Please recommend where we can send donations to.


  33. - Earl - Wednesday, Feb 29, 12 @ 1:49 pm:

    Your coverage is as good as our local media-maybe better because of the distance and wider view.Thanks.And thanks for commenter’s words of encouragement.


  34. - Peggy R/Southern - Wednesday, Feb 29, 12 @ 2:02 pm:

    Prayers for those suffering and may the deceased rest in peace.


  35. - Cheryl44 - Wednesday, Feb 29, 12 @ 3:22 pm:

    It’s good to see Kirk’s staff is not sitting around wondering what to do.

    You can donate here and tell them where to send it: http://www.redcross.org/donate/donate.html


  36. - Jak Tichenor - Wednesday, Feb 29, 12 @ 5:59 pm:

    Just got back from Harrisburg a few minutes ago. It’s a terrible mess on the city’s south-side. The storm tore a 200-yard path through residential neighborhoods and a strip-shopping center just before 5:00 this morning. The shopping center was leveled like many of the houses nearby. The sirens sounded but I’m afraid a lot of folks were still caught by surprise in the dark and had no safe place to go. Incredible, heart-breaking scenes of destruction for blocks on end. I’ve seen these things before, but I am stunned by the ferocity of the winds and how utterly complete the destruction is in some places. Some of the houses I saw were just pulverized and their contents were strewn everywhere. NWS initial estimates say it was an EF-4 with winds of 170-mph. The effort by first-responders from neighboring towns and cities has been terrific. There were dozens of ambulances and emergency vehicles from 30-to-60-miles away. Very heartening to see how people are pitching in everywhere to help their neighbors and friends. Red Cross and other relief agencies are on the scene offering assistance. Gov. Quinn signed a state disaster declaration in Harrisburg this afternoon and has been in contact with the White House since this morning. We’ll have to wait until a more complete damage assessment is done before we’ll know if there will be a federal disaster declaration.

    This was a bad one, folks. Please keep these people in your thoughts and prayers tonight.

    P.S. to Rich, Devin was one of the first people I ran into over there this morning.


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