By Shane Nicholson
A massive wedge tornado tore a path from Ashton through the small town of Fairdale Thursday night, killing two and leaving at least 20 injured.
First reports of the twister on the ground came from east of Ashton. “I was watching it from my deck,” said a resident of Chana. “It flared up immediately. It was massive by the time it crossed Flagg Road.”
The intersection of Illinois Routes 251 and 64 north of Rochelle saw extensive damage with the longstanding Grubsteaker’s restaurant taking a direct hit.
The tornado continued northeast to Fairdale which felt the brunt of the storm around 7:15 p.m., leaving the town of about 130 people utterly ravaged.
“The west side of Fairdale is destroyed,” said DeKalb County Sheriff Roger Scott Thursday night.
The smell of leaking gas hung in the air in Fairdale as rescue operations were underway at 8:30 p.m.
The area immediately south of Route 72 between West and White Streets was wiped out by the tornado, leaving most structures in its path a pile of rubble. Debris was flung as far north as Cherry Valley Road, over five miles away.
“We saw it coming from the west, almost like it was coming straight down the highway,” said one Fairdale resident.
“The hail started – golf ball sized, baseball sized, maybe softball – and we just ran for the basement.”
Survivors were still being pulled from the damage left in the wake of the storm as late as 11 p.m. Thursday night as crews worked to search each building twice in an effort to account for the town’s residents.
A staging area and Red Cross station was established at nearby Kirkland’s fire department to house residents of Fairdale. A similar command post was set up in Flagg Center for residents affected by the tornado nearer to Rochelle.
Non emergency personnel looking to assist in clean up and recovery have been directed to check in at the staging areas for assignment.
Persons wishing to make donations are recommended to give personal hygiene items such as brushes, combs, shampoo, toothbrushes and toothpaste, as well as items such as rakes, shovels and other yard utensils. Donations of clothing are not recommended by volunteer responders.
“As we continue to keep those impacted by the severe storms across our region in our thoughts and prayers, I want to make sure all the people of our region have the resources they need,” said Congresswoman Cheri Bustos.
U.S. Cellular has set up a phone charging station at the Kirkland Red Cross station and is offering residents who need to make a phone call or charge their devices help at their Rochelle, DeKalb and South Perryville Road, Rockford locations.
In addition, customers who need a loaner phone can pick one up at the 1225 Caron Road, Rochelle location.
The Red Cross is accepting donations at the Kirkland and Flagg Center locations. The Chana Tap restaurant is also accepting donations.