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Breaking News

Tornado touches down in Coal City

COAL CITY – A tornado touched down late Monday night in Coal City, the second twister to hit this town of about 5,500 in less than two years.

The tornado was reported about 10 p.m., according to the National Weather Service, and was one of several reported throughout Northern Illinois. Braidwood also reportedly had a tornado. Coal City also was hit by a tornado in November 2013.

Officials were unsure early Tuesday morning how many homes are damaged and how many people are displaced. Coal City High School had been opened for emergency evacuations but that was changed to Coal City Methodist Church, 6805 McArdle, after the high school lost power.

"We're still working on search and rescue," Lt. Nick Doerfler of Coal City Fire Protection District said late Monday night.

Grundy County Coroner John Callahan said there were no immediate reports of fatalities.

"There are entrapments and they are trying to make their way to different locations," he said of emergency crews in Coal City.

Doerfler said he had not heard how many are injured, and that emergency responders were working to free trapped people. Coal City's fire station received some damage, he said.

Emergency crews were as of 11:30 p.m. trying to rescue people trapped in buildings, said Joe Schroeder, director of the Grundy County Emergency Management Agency.

"We're in the response and rescue phase," Schroeder said at that time. "We do know people were injured, and people were trapped."

Will County Emergency Management Agency Director Harold Damron said he had heard early after the tornado passed that at least 20 buildings were damaged in Coal City.

The fire district has created a Facebook page to spread information, Doerfler said, Coal City Area Tornado - Official.

Two houses were leveled in the neighborhood around Coal City Middle School, said Brittany Halliday, daughter of Mayor Terry Halliday.

"There are some houses that are no longer there," Brittany Halliday said. "There are [boat] trailers all over the place. It's just a mess."

Halliday said she heard of two people transported to the hospital with injuries. Another house had the second level blown off by the winds, she said.

There were reports Monday night of numerous downed power lines throughout the city as well. Roads into Coal City, including Route 113 east of Route 47, were closed late Monday night. Interstate 55 near Coal City and Braidwood exits also was jammed.

Most of the damage was on the west end of Coal City, he said. There also were reports of damage in unincorporated areas between Morris and Coal City, Schroeder said.

Making the situation worse was the heavy rain that continued to fall and the complete loss of electricity in Coal City.

"It's still pouring down rain," Village Clerk Pam Noffsinger said about midnight. "The streets are flooded, and it's black. There is no power."

Noffsinger said the only way to get around town was to walk. Authorities were advising people to stay off the streets so emergency crews could get through.

"There is a house that was demolished on Coaler Road," she said.

Her own house on Daisy Place suffered some damage but was intact.

"I lost a huge oak tree," Noffsinger said.

Other areas damaged too

A tornado also was reported in Braidwood, where a power line was blown onto Interstate 55 at 10:15 p.m.

"They're lying on the road," Damron, with Will County Emergency Management Agency, said shortly before midnight. "I know ComEd is on the scene."

A semitrailer and pick-up overturned at the Reed Road exit from I-55, Damron said. The interstate was reportedly blocked in both directions.

There was a report of roof damage to the motel at the exit. Damron said he heard of one other building sustaining some damage.

The damage in Will County was light compared to what happened in Grundy County. Damron said Will County Sheriff's police were assisting in Coal City. Will County EMA was sending vehicles that could bring lighting to help with the response in Coal City.

Reports of possible rotation in Seneca and Mazon also were reported about 9:45 p.m.

Prior to the rains hitting, road crews worked Monday afternoon to clear streets and sidewalks of tree branches and yard debris after strong winds ripped through the Joliet area.

ComEd spokeswoman Annette Martinez said there were six tornadoes reported in the utility's territory.

Besides Coal City and Braidwood, tornadoes were reported in Ottawa, Sterling, Sublette and Rock Island, she said.

ComEd had dispatched 200 work crews and had 26,000 customers out of service as of early Tuesday morning.

Meteorologist Bill Nelson at the National Weather Service said it was too early to determine how many tornadoes hit Northern Illinois during the night.

"We'll be sending teams out tomorrow to figure it out," he said.

A National Weather Service storm lists tree damage between 4 and 5 p.m. in Joliet, Lockport and Plainfield. Winds as high as 49 mph were reported. A large tree reportedly fell on Interstate 80 east of Larkin Avenue at 4:50 p.m. Another tree was blown down at Route 59 and Caton Farm Road at 4:05 p.m.

The Community Foundation of Grundy County has set up an online donation site to help recovery in Coal City. Visit www.cfgrundycounty.com to donate.

• Shaw Media reporters Heidi Litchfield and Vikaas Shanker contributed to this report.

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