Wilmington Fire Department Chief Todd Friddle said the damage from Monday’s storms was "eerily close" to the damage the area saw during tornadoes in 2013.
National Weather Service forecasters on Tuesday afternoon said the damage in nearby Coal City and Braidwood was the result of an EF-3 tornado that traveled more than 16 miles and had winds peaking at about 160 mph.
"It's so scary. It's such a terrible tragedy and we're incredibly blessed there are no deaths and no life-threatening injuries," Gov. Bruce Rauner said during a tour of the devastation. He also issued a state disaster proclamation Tuesday for Lee and Grundy counties.
Coal City Mayor Tarry Halliday said the storm hit the west side of town before traveling southeast. He said that while the damage is devastating, the community can and will survive.
"I do know the resiliency of this community, I’ve lived here all my life," he said. "Neighbors will come out and help neighbors and we will definitely get through this.”
Residents had about 25 minutes warning before the devastation began. Officials said that alone almost certainly meant that countless lives were saved. Still, more than two dozen homes were damaged or completely destroyed.
Brian Pope was among those who rode out the storm. His car and boat, which were in the garage, were found on the driveway after the storm passed.
"It had to be some pretty, pretty bad winds," he said.
Officials said the Coal City Fire Station District 2 was among the buildings damaged in the storm. Friddle said the station sustained "significant damage" and the district’s fire chief and some firefighters had homes that were hit in the storm, but crews from the station still managed to respond to the hard-hit areas.
It was just 19 months ago when another line of storms spawned tornadoes that killed six Illinoisans and devastated several communities. Halliday saw both storms.
"I've been here for 51 years. I'm a life-long resident, and never seen a tornado until two out of the last three years. So we're hoping this is the last of this," he said.