Published January 13, 2015
Survivors of a night of violent storms said two tornadoes (search) -- one right after the other -- ripped across rural southern Illinois. At least two people died, more than 20 were injured and dozens of homes were destroyed or damaged.
Authorities planned to survey the area Wednesday, but confirmed that tornadoes had struck at least two counties.
Brenda Crockett, who lives near the small towns of Mermet and Hillerman in Massac County, said she made it to her basement just before the first tornado hit around 10 p.m. Tuesday.
When she emerged a few minutes later, her house had been leveled and another tornado was bearing down on her.
"There was nothing for me to do except lie down and grab the grass," she said.
About a half-mile away, Miriam Houchins, 65, was found dead face down in a ravine. Massac County Coroner Steven Farmer said Houchins was found about 100 yards from the mobile home she shared with her seven dogs.
Houchins' car was thrown several hundred feet and the frame of her mobile home was wrapped around two tree trunks.
Across the road, Lawrence and Tina Ragsdale's house was spared major damage.
"Everybody around here is tore up. I don't know why we ain't," he said.
Tina Ragsdale said there were two tornadoes, and the second one "roared and roared and got louder and then it was gone."
Pulaski County Coroner Lisa Tarpley said a man died after the storm damaged his home in the town of Grand Chain. She could provide no other information.
The storms brought strong winds and hail to a largely rural area of the state near the Kentucky state line.
Tornadoes were reported in Massac, Pulaski, Pope and Alexander counties. The Illinois Emergency Management Agency (search) confirmed Wednesday morning that two tornadoes touched down in Pulaski and Massac counties.
Meteorologist Mike Nadolski of the National Weather Service (search) in Paducah, Ky., said workers were going out across the four counties to try to determine whether the damage was caused by tornadoes.
"From what we saw on radar and what we got in from our spotters, it will probably turn out to be tornadoes," he said.
In Mermet, Lester Korte and his family spent Wednesday morning searching for what belongings they could salvage from the ruins of their house.
"We had just got into the basement when the thing hit," he said.
"This is probably the worst storm ever to hit Massac County," said Bill Gower of Metropolis, an insurance adjuster who said at least 35 of his clients had lost their homes.
Emergency room nurse Sue Artman said more than 20 people were brought to Massac Memorial Hospital in Metropolis.
One person was in stable condition and four others were transferred to Western Baptist Hospital in Paducah, Ky., she said. The other victims were treated and released.
A Western Baptist Hospital supervisor said one of the four people transferred there was admitted and was in good condition. The other three were treated and released.
The supervisor also said two other Illinois residents drove themselves to the Paducah hospital. One of them was admitted and was in good condition, and the other was treated and released, she said.
Illinois Emergency Management Agency director Bill Burke said 18 to 20 homes and 18 to 20 mobile homes were destroyed in Massac County alone. Burke planned to fly to the area to make a personal assessment of the damage.