Feds start surveys of tornado wreckage

Tribune reporter

WASHINGTON, Ill. — As rain soaked the shredded remains of Washington neighborhoods on Thursday, damage assessment teams began surveying the wreckage. Their findings — and the initial ones were almost uniformly grim — will be used in the state’s request for federal disaster assistance.

“In some cases, it’s hard to tell if there is a property or what the address is,” said Jonathon Monken, director of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency.

Monken spoke with reporters before the teams of federal, state and local officials began evaluating the damage. At the first home, a missing wall revealed a wooden chair in what appeared to be the kitchen. In the front lawn, a blue Ford Taurus had collapsed on itself, the steering wheel protruding from the shattered windshield. As assessors marched down the block, they found more of the same.

Washington residents whose homes were among the more than 1,000 severely damaged or destroyed weren’t allowed on their property today, though public works crews and other responders continued sifting through the wreckage. Residents will be allowed back at their homes Friday to salvage what they can, Mayor Gary Manier said.

As police from surrounding cities guarded the affected neighborhoods and volunteers picked debris from corn fields, life started to resume in other parts of this city of 15,000. The KFC had a steady lunch crowd, but the only drinks for sale were bottled Pepsi products. The sign out front announced that the restaurant was closing before dinner in observance with a curfew that was to remain in place through the weekend.

But the line between devastation and normalcy was often thin. Monken and Manier addressed reporters from a parking lot overlooking a neighborhood where almost nothing appeared salvageable. The Advance Auto Parts next to them had crumbled in on itself and wasn't identifiable from the street. But across the parking lot, no more than 50 yards away, a seemingly untouched Tractor Supply Co. store was back open for business.


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