The tornado was so massive and the damage so extensive that in some areas, plows had to push debris off the streets so emergency crews could reach survivors. At least one person died in the tornadoes that hit Illinois and other areas Thursday. Numerous injuries were also reported.
Video of the tornado that hit Rochelle, Ill., shows a thick, twisting column reaching down to the earth from a huge mass of low clouds.
At least two tornadoes hit Illinois on Thursday, affecting six counties. Others were reported in Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. The lone death that has been reported is in the small town of Fairdale, Ill., which reportedly saw damage to most of its buildings.
"Earlier in the tornado's path, a popular Rochelle restaurant was destroyed. A dozen people were sheltered in the basement of Grubsteakers and emerged unharmed.
"The tornado first touched down around 6:35 in Ashton, then continued to move north for more than an hour, according to Northern Illinois University meteorologist Gilbert Sebenste."
After talking with a restaurant employee who urged people to get down into the basement of the Grubsteakers restaurant, Jenna Dooley of member station WNIJ reports, "They waited for more than an hour to be rescued, but when they emerged, the fields were covered with shattered glass and pink insulation."
A video posted online by Live Storms Media shows that when the large tornado crossed through Rochelle, it also crossed over an interstate that motorists were using to flee the storm. As they tracked the tornado's wake, the camera crew captured the moment when a semi lost control and tipped sideways on the road in front of them.
Near Rochelle, Russell Henson and his son, Nathan, fled after they watched the tornado level a restaurant — and head toward their house. They scooped up their dog, jumped in a car and sped off. They returned late last night to find their house splintered by the storm. Their two barns were destroyed, they told The Chicago Tribune.
"We're alive. I can't say much more than that," Henson told the newspaper.
This morning, parts of southwest Ohio, Indiana and northern Kentucky are under a tornado watch issued by the federal Storm Prediction Center.