A tornado that produced winds of up to 115 mph (185 kilometers per hour) swept through two southeastern Illinois communities on Thursday, causing damage but no injuries before dissipating in Indiana, the National Weather Service has confirmed.
Weather service staffers who surveyed storm damage Friday determined that an EF-2 tornado with a 26-mile-long (42-kilometer-long) path touched down Thursday night in the Wabash County town of Keensburg before sweeping across the south side of Mount Carmel, the county seat.
Keensburg residents Michael and Stacey Whipkey took shelter in an interior bathroom after they heard the wind picking up minutes after tornado sirens began wailing in the community of less than 300 residents.
“I heard it coming, it was like it was right there. It lasted maybe 10 or 15 seconds, and then it was over," Stacey Whipkey told the Evansville Courier & Press.
Feeling out of the loop? We'll catch you up on the Chicago news you need to know. Sign up for the weekly Chicago Catch-Up newsletter here.
Falling trees destroyed at least two mobile homes in Keensburg and damaged cars, property and other homes in the community.
The tornado then moved across Mount Carmel's south side, leaving behind overturned trailers and sheds, downed trees and power lines, and several damaged homes in the city of more than 7,000 residents, police Chief Mike McWilliams said Friday.
The tornado then moved into southwestern Indiana, where it repeatedly crossed the meandering path of the White River near the Gibson County/Knox County line before dissipating.
In the Knox County town of Decker, Pat Doades said she hunkered in a hallway in her home as the tornado swept nearby, leaving downed trees, power lines and debris near her residence.
“I could hear everything hitting outside. Rain and bark from the trees came in through a bathroom window I had open, spread nearly all across the house. “I just prayed,” she told the Vincennes Sun-Commercial.
The storm’s 26-mile path was nothing out of the ordinary for an EF-2 tornado in the region of southern Illinois, western Kentucky and southwestern Indiana that the weather service’s Paducah office covers, said Christine Wielgos, a meteorologist in that office.
“That’s a pretty strong tornado, an EF-2," she said Saturday. “Usually the stronger tornadoes can last a lot longer so their paths can be substantially longer than for weaker tornadoes."
Far longer tornado paths are possible, including a December 2021 tornado that Wielgos called “an anomaly" which left a nearly 166-mile-long (270-kilometer-long) path of destruction in western Kentucky and was rated an EF-4, the weather service found.
That was part of a deadly tornado outbreak that produced a twister that caused an Amazon facility in Edwardsville, Illinois, to collapse, killing six people.