Thursday, June 25, 2015

Coal City schools damaged by tornado

A tornado caused damage to Coal City CUSD 1 on June 22.

Tornados stretch across Illinois causing significant damage;
one school district among those impacted
Nine confirmed tornados touched down across northern Illinois on Monday, June 22, causing significant damage. The hardest hit was Coal City, a town of 5,500 southwest of Chicago. This was the second tornado to strike the village in less than two years, as they were also impacted by the deadly November 2013 twisters.

Sorm damage at Coal City.
The EF3 tornado that rolled through Coal City brought 160 mph winds cutting a path of destruction three-quarters of a mile wide in some places. There were no reported fatalities and five confirmed injuries. A fire station was damaged along with a number of residential homes and businesses.

Coal City CUSD 1 sustained damage to both high school and middle school facilities. According to Jason Smith, the chief school business official for the district, the high school sustained damage to the roof, broken windows, and water damage to the gymnasium. Outdoor athletic facilities also saw significant destruction, included most fences down at the baseball, softball, football, and soccer fields, as well as the tennis courts. A scoreboard was destroyed and there was structural damage to the dugouts and backstops of both the baseball and softball fields. The middle school also reported damage to outdoor athletic facilities, and minor damage to the roof and some broken windows.

Smith also said that the school was being used as a resting station for workers, a Red Cross distribution point, and providing a central area for insurance companies and the news media.

The eight other tornados ranging in strength from EF0 to EF3 stretched from Edgington in western Rock Island County to Herscher in eastern Kankakee County. The small village of Sublette in Lee County reported substantial destruction to a 1,600-acre camping area. Five people within the grounds suffered injuries, with one considered serious. The towns of Braidwood, Mendota, Ottawa, and the area just north of Kankakee were also impacted.

Flooding is another major concern for communities and school districts, as the relentless rain accompanying the storms has filled rivers and streams beyond capacity. The National Weather Service has issued flood warnings for six rivers throughout the state, including the Illinois, Kankakee, Embarras, Little Wabash, Mazon, Spoon, and Vermillion Rivers.

Galesburg CUSD 5 reported flood damage earlier this month as the result of strong storms that knocked out power to one of the schools. Galesburg High School reported as much as a foot of water in its basement, damaging thousands of dollars worth of band, choir, and drama equipment.