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Governor tours storm-damaged region

  • A man walks among the debris piles and remains of damaged houses on Thursday in Elkville. Gov. Bruce Rauner made a stop there to visit residents of the tornado-damaged city. See more photos in the March 10 print edition of the Herald Tribune.

    A man walks among the debris piles and remains of damaged houses on Thursday in Elkville. Gov. Bruce Rauner made a stop there to visit residents of the tornado-damaged city. See more photos in the March 10 print edition of the Herald Tribune.
    Pete Spitler/Herald Tribune

By Pete Spitler
updated: 3/2/2017 6:40 PM

ELKVILLE -- With a backdrop of piles of debris and residents cleaning up what's left of heavily damaged homes, Gov. Bruce Rauner visited Elkville on Thursday, his final stop of tornado-torn areas of the state.

"There were 16 tornadoes (statewide)," Rauner told assembled media on hard-hit Lacy Road north of downtown Elkville. "Unfortunately, three folks lost their lives."

Rauner said one person was killed in White County near Crossville, while two Ottawa men were fatally injured when a tree uprooted and fell on them while they were working in the backyard of a house just prior to the storm.

"Sixty-four families in the community completely lost their homes," Rauner said of the village of Naplate, where no one was seriously injured. "Sixty-four out of 200 homes.

"It was devastating. Also a glass manufacturing facility where many of them worked."

In a Wednesday afternoon news release, the Jackson County Sheriff's Office, in conjunction with the Jackson County Emergency Management Agency, announced a preliminary damage assessment from the previous night's tornado had revealed 46 residences in the county had suffered reportable damage.

Twelve of those are being considered a total loss. An undetermined number of vehicles, outbuildings and other structures were damaged as well.

The Powerade Park sports complex, which was built in 2005 by Dennis Bastien and home to Morthland College's baseball and softball teams from 2012 to 2015, also suffered major damage.

In Missouri, Perryville residents are continuing cleanup efforts after the twister killed one person, injured at least 10 and carved a 13-to-15-mile path through Perry County.

On Wednesday, a survey crew with the National Weather Service preliminarily assessed the Perryville damage as an EF-3 or greater. According to media reports, Perryville Mayor Ken Baer stated during a news conference that day that more than 60 families had lost all their belongings.

Storm surveys continued Thursday, with NWS officials arriving in Jackson County to begin assessing the damage there.

"At this point, we're trying to make sure all the insurance companies are being responsive to those folks who are insured," Rauner said. "Make sure they're here on a timely basis, folks get their checks and get supported.

"For those who don't have a place to stay with family or friends, we're helping them get shelter, food and clothing as they need it."

The storm's fury was seen in other ways. Campbell Hill resident Jodi Robertson discovered a City of Perryville trash can lid among the debris in her yard, and an Ava resident reported on social media of finding a mangled Missouri license plate - supposedly from a salvage yard the tornado crossed along Interstate 55.

While there were signs of loss, there were also signs of hope. Various schools, businesses and organizations around Randolph County and elsewhere have stepped up to serve as donation locations for clothing and items for the affected residents of Perryville, Ava and Elkville.

"I called and spoke to the mayor and I offered any of our equipment and our people," said Chester Mayor Tom Page. "We are gathering hygiene items at city hall to be taken next Tuesday to Perryville City Hall.

"Monday is the last day people can bring stuff to donate."

Randolph County was largely spared the destruction that occurred to the west and east of it. Tornado damage in the small village of Rockwood, about 11 miles to the south of Chester, was mostly limited to outbuildings and trees.

"Oh my gosh did we get lucky," Page said. "That (tornado) could have easily torn us up."

In Ava, the Ava Fire Department has been collecting donations, particularly tarps for those who have suffered roof damage, for storm victims at its firehouse and is also serving as a command center for volunteers.

Locally near Chester, Hailey Davis and Maci Tressler are also collecting donations. Davis told the Herald Tribune she is asking for money donations and gift cards for the affected families.

"Also totes, work gloves, trash bags and things like that to help assist with the cleanup," Davis said. "I also know that some of Perryville's local Girl Scouts are needing laundry items to help clean clothes, so we are also collecting those items.

"We are also asking for things for a local daycare to be able to reopen her daycare such as cribs, playpens, highchairs and toys. All money donations will be turned into gift cards and other items needed."

To donate, contact Davis at 618-615-7252 or Tressler at 618-615-5021 to arrange for pickup or dropoff.

The storm system was a byproduct of what's been referred to as a "false spring." The NWS Paducah's office reported the warmest winter on record for the city and the second warmest for the surrounding cities of Evansville (Ind.) and Cape Girardeau (Mo.).

All three cities recorded their warmest February on record.