Washington IL – 4 Months After the November 17 Tornado

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The first thing you notice is the fireplace standing alone. If you click to enlarge the photo, you can clearly see debris that had been buried under snow all winter. You can see other damaged houses in the background as well as the ruined trees.

On Friday, I visited Washington IL to check on the recovery from the November 17, 2013, tornado event. The good news is that I saw lots of construction. The bad news is that a lot of damage remains. As a result of the harsh winter, very little clean up could be done in these conditions, let alone extensive construction. In fact, the city is still looking for volunteers to help with the cleanup. Other locations hit by the November 17 tornado outbreak are facing similar conditions.

While tornadoes can occur in any month of the year, our core season in March-June. In many cases, a community has a full construction season to recover from such a disaster. One of the unique aspects of this tornado outbreak is that it happened in mid November, with winter right around the corner. And not just any winter, but one of the harshest winters in a long time. Looking at the weather records for nearby Peoria, the low temperatures after November 17 quickly dropped below freezing with a few light snow events. By December, they had a full-blown winter. By the end of it, Peoria received 49.6 inches of snow, the second highest total behind the 52.5 inches in 2010-11. It was the 8th coldest December-February on record as well. It is no wonder that the cleanup effort has a long ways to go.

However, as they say, “spring brings hope” and on that spring day last Friday I saw signs of hope and recovery for Washington IL. My sympathies go out to all tornado victims as they heal physically, financially, and emotionally from this natural disaster.

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Here is an example of a concrete slab wiped clean in the foreground and new houses under construction in the background. Friday was a nice day and the builders were running at 100%. Click to enlarge.
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This house has been severely damaged with the loss of the roof and most of the upstairs walls. What I found haunting is that you can clearly to two twin beds on the right, another bedroom on the left. While it did not come out in the photo, there were clothes still hanging in the closet. Click to enlarge.
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Another severely damaged house with the roof and several walls missing. By the front door is a piece of plywood with the words “OK” on it; hopefully indicating that the residents survived. Click to enlarge.
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