Washington, Ill. cleans up after tornado

Jean Vires, 51, carries bags of rescued belongings as she helps her mother search in the wreckage of her mother's destroyed home after a devastating tornado that struck Washington, Ill. (Chris Walker / Chicago Tribune / November 18, 2013)

President Barack Obama on Tuesday approved disaster funding for 15 Illinois counties damaged during a deadly string of tornadoes downstate, a day after a group of Illinois lawmakers asked the president for emergency funding.

The president's disaster declaration paves the way for low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, grants for temporary housing and home repairs and other programs to help business and homeowners recover from the effects of the Nov. 17 disaster that destroyed part of downstate Washington and several other Central and Southern Illinois towns, according to a statement from the White House.

The two-dozen twisters, which included two EF-4 tornadoes, killed six in Illinois and injured more than 120 people.

Officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency said that damage surveys were continuing in other areas and that additional counties may be designated for assistance after the assessments are fully completed. 

On Monday, a bipartisan group of congressmen sent the president a letter requesting emergency funds on behalf of the storm-ravaged locales.

wlee@tribune.com