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Severe weather roughs up region

  • Firefighters guard a section of Old State Route 3, one of a multitude of locations with power lines down as a result of Wednesday's storm.

    Firefighters guard a section of Old State Route 3, one of a multitude of locations with power lines down as a result of Wednesday's storm.
    Pete Spitler/Herald Tribune

By Pete Spitler
updated: 4/26/2017 8:55 PM

Almost two months to the day after the Fat Tuesday tornadoes, Randolph County residents went another round with Mother Nature on Wednesday.

Straight-line wind gusts up to a reported 70 mph felled trees and brought down power lines, knocking out power to a significant chunk of Ameren Illinois customers in the region.

The power outage was first reported at 2:15 p.m.

"We had a little under 3,000 customers that were out," said Ameren Illinois spokeswoman Marcelyn Love. "Our crews are working on the issue and we'll get customers restored as quickly as possible."

According to Chester EMA Coordinator Charlie Bargman II, at least three homes suffered structural damage in the storm, but no injuries were reported.

"As far as we know, we have three structures that were damaged by trees or tree limbs," he said. "The one down on Barron Street was a big limb that went through the roof of their house trailer.

"Those people are currently seeking shelter somewhere else because it is uninhabitable."

The residents of that trailer, William Kane and Brenda Shipley, described their experience. They were home at the time of the storm.

"It got dark and the next thing I knew the rain was coming in sheets," Shipley said. "The next thing I heard was that tree coming down."

"It didn't last very long, but when it hit, it hit hard," Kane added.

Elsewhere in Chester on High Street, Travis Lott and his roommate, Garrett Robertson, were found surveying the damage caused by a large tree that had fallen and clipped part of their house's porch and roof.

Neither of the two men were home at the time of the storm. Lott, whose uncle is Kane, stated that he had intended to take his daughter to the zoo the next day.

"After everything I've been through, I just want to see a penguin," he said.

Further north, the Chester Fire Department responded to the report of power lines that had fallen on a dump truck on Old State Route 3. Firefighters also dealt with a power pole that had caught fire near the Chester Country Club.

"When we arrived on scene, we found that it was a regular truck and the power lines were live," said Chester Fire Chief Marty Bert. "I made contact with (the driver) by cell phone and I told him to stay in his truck until the power company got here.

"The power company got here, disconnected the lines and got him out without any injuries."

The thunderstorm was part of a storm system that formed ahead of an advancing cold front. After a breather on Thursday, the threat of flash flooding arrives in the area Friday night with another storm system that could bring between 2 and 7 inches of additional rain by Sunday evening.

As of Wednesday evening, the U.S. Geological Survey's gauge showed the Mississippi River at Chester at 23.4 feet. Flood stage is 27 feet.

"A strong, slow moving storm system will affect the region over the weekend," the National Weather Service stated in a hydrologic outlook posted at 4:10 p.m. "A warm, moist air mass will be in place across a portion of the area as the storm system moves through.

"Unusually high atmospheric moisture will allow for high rainfall rates. These high rainfall rates will combine with the slow movement of the system to produce multiple rounds of heavy rain."

The NWS indicated that its latest models showed the potential for moderate-to-major flooding in river basins mostly to the south and east of St. Louis, including Kaskaskia.

"People should remain alert to the possibility of flooding, particularly in flood prone areas through the weekend," the NWS said in its report.

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