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Christmas Brings Brief Respite From Rebuilding Effort In Washington

Debris covers the area after a tornado struck on November 17, 2013 in Washington, Illinois. Several tornadoes touched down across the Midwest today with at least three people reported dead in Illinois. (Credit: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

Debris covers the area after a tornado struck on November 17, 2013 in Washington, Illinois. Several tornadoes touched down across the Midwest today with at least three people reported dead in Illinois. (Credit: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

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WASHINGTON, Ill. (CBS) – The town of Washington took a day off on Christmas, after weeks of work clearing debris from the tornado that destroyed hundreds of homes on Nov. 17.

Crews were out Christmas Eve, and they were back at it the day after Christmas, clearing away debris from the tornado almost six weeks ago. At least 400 homes were destroyed, and about 1,100 were damaged by the twister.

“The last I heard was that we were nearing 50 percent of the debris removed,” said Washington Alderman Tyler Gee.

After putting in hundreds of hours of hard work since the twister, the Christmas holiday provided some good relief for Washington’s residents, according to Gee.

“I think to get away, and get some rest and some time and relax; I think it will help in dealing with everything that’s going on,” he said.

Gee said, as people get tired, you can definitely tell it’s getting to them. He said small businesses in Washington have suffering, with revenue down 15-20 percent after the tornado, because so many people who lived in Washington before the tornado have had to move away after losing their homes.

The Washington Chamber of Commerce has been asking those displaced residents to come back at least once a week and buy a tank of gas, or some groceries; or eat at a restaurant, according to Gee. Even the mayor of Peoria has asked people there to drive the 11 miles to Washington to fill up with gas once a week, Gee said.