Survivors Dig Through “War Zone Disaster” In Naplate After Tornado

CHICAGO (CBS) — At least 25 percent of the homes in the small town of Naplate, Illinois, were damaged by a tornado Tuesday night, with at least one man calling his home a “war zone disaster,” but the community remained resilient as they began cleaning up Wednesday morning.

Naplate officials said at least 50 of the 200 homes in the village were damaged by the twister.

“I’m still in shock. We’ve been told our whole lives that a tornado never hit here,” Naplate homeowner Jason Kennedy said.

Kennedy and his father, Steve Callaway, had just put the final touches on a newly renovated house this past weekend, putting down the floors on Saturday and Sunday.

“A lot of work gone into it, and now it’s just trashed,” Kennedy said.

Callaway said the home looked like a “war zone disaster.”

“I don’t think it can be saved,” he said.

Ashley Miller showed CBS 2’s Ed Curran where she hid under the stairs in the basement with her two sons and her dog when the storm hit.

“Everything was coming flying through that window right there, all in here. Glass was flying everywhere, and all I could do was protect my kids, so I just stayed here until I heard somebody say it was okay,” she said. “Then I started smelling gas, and there was a gas leak, so I knew we had to get out of here. So then we were able to go back up the stairs, and as I got up the stairs, people were trying to bust in the door to get us out, because the door was jammed with a tree.”

She said it “seemed like forever” for the tornado to move through, “but all of this probably happened in 5 or 10 minutes.”

“I’m at a complete loss. I mean, my whole life is gone,” Miller said.

Alyssa Johnson said her home also was destroyed.

“Ceilings are all caved in, the walls are cracking, and everything’s just pretty much flipped over on the floor,” she said. “It brought tears to my eyes, because that’s my family, and now we just have nowhere to go, but we’ll be okay.”

Johnson did find a glimmer of hope after the storm, when her 2-year-old Labrador retriever-pit bull mix, Satch, came crawling out of the debris.

“He was scared, because I was scared, not knowing all these noises and sounds, and not knowing where we’re at, or if we’re coming back,” she said. “Hug him, and kiss him, and squeeze him, and love him, and let him know it was okay.”

It was an emotional morning in Naplate, with a mixture of sadness at what was lost, and thankfulness that no lives were lost in the village of 500 people.

“I’ve just seen a lot of the homes that I know where people live, and they’re gone,” Mayor Jim Rick said.

Despite all the damage, no one was killed in Naplate, and there were only a few minor injuries.

Sirens in Naplate went off 15 minutes before the tornado touched down, allowing residents to take shelter and avoid major injuries or deaths.

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