UPDATE: The Illinois State Police held a press conference at 10:30 this morning. The National Weather Service's Rick Shanklin addressed the press saying three crews are surveying damage in southern Illinois to get an estimate on the strength of some of the tornadoes that struck the community.
"We have found most of the damage is in the EF-2 range, however, we have found some peak damage at the low end of EF-3," said Shanklin. "So thus far EF-3: 140 mph peak winds for the event. The damage track is averaging about 250 yards in width."
Massac County Sheriff Ted Holder said his deputies, along with state troopers, had secured a two mile section of Unionville Road on which around 50 homes had been destroyed.
“We don’t have any more victims left on the scene, everyone’s been accounted for, but we are going to provide security in that area to keep from anything going missing," said Holder.
Ameren Illinois Spokesperson Tina Hale said the company has brought in 55 personnel to replace approximately 40 downed poles in the county. Hale said half of Brookport’s power was restored at 9:30 this morning and crews were working to restore the other half by noon today, but it may be awhile until power can be restored to individual homes.
Authorities have identified the deceased as 58-year old Kathy George, 56-year old Robert Harmon and 63-year old Scholitta Burrus. All three victims were from the Brookport area.
At least three people are dead and many injured following a line of severe weather that spawned numerous tornadoes from Massac County Illinois northeast to Henderson County, Kentucky. National Weather Service forecasters warned of the system on Friday.
Preliminary reports indicate the most severe damage from Sunday’s system occurred in Brookport, IL, a town just north of Paducah, KY of a little less than 1,000 people. Storm spotters reported more than 50 mobile homes destroyed between two mobile home parks. One spotter reported a woman trapped under a mobile home.
Emergency response spokesperson David Searby says after a long night emergency services will get a new look at the on the ground situation this morning in Massac County, one of the hardest hit communities.
"The shelter operations are still ongoing, assisting the affected parties at the baptist church there in Metropolis," Searby said. "The Red Cross is helping to coordinate all their disaster services for the victims. What we will be doing today once the sun gets up, obviously we will reassess the situation. We will have a meeting this morning with all the public safety personnel about how operations will by conducted today."
Searby says financial and casualty numbers will be updated throughout the day as damage reports are assessed.
"We need to get a fair and accurate assessment about what damage actually occurred," he said "Is the building livable, is it totally or partially destroyed? That's what the damage assessment teams will be out doing today. Also, looking at the damage gives us an actual idea of how to manage the debris that's involved."
He is urging non-residents to stay away from affected areas to allow for response teams to work more effectively.
WKMS Reporter John Paul Henry confirmed two of the storm’s fatalities. He says one of the fatalities occurred in Unionville, IL, just a few miles east of Brookport. Illinois emergency management confirmed the third fatality this morning. Law enforcement officials haven’t released the identities of the deceased. The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet reports the US 45 “Brookport” Bridge, which connects Kentucky to Illinois, will remain closed overnight and likely longer due to damage on the Illinois side of the bridge. Law enforcement has instituted a curfew for Brookport from 6:00 P.M. to 6:00 A.M. Massac Unit 1 Schools have canceled classes for Monday.
As the storm moved east numerous weather spotters reported high winds in excess of 50-mph and golf-ball sized hail. Interstate-69 is closed near Princeton, KY due to downed power lines. Law enforcement reported large trees blocking a portion of the Pennyrile Parkway near Nortonville, KY in Hopkins County. There were 12 total storm reports to the National Weather Service office in Paducah that indicated a tornado or funnel cloud in the WKMS service region.
Numerous support agencies are coordinating help for those displaced by the storm system. Contact your local Red Cross for opportunities to volunteer or provide needed items.
Three NWS survey teams will deploy Monday to assess damage from Sunday’s storms. The NWS will also issue an official report detailing the number and intensity of tornadoes from the system.