A deadly and devastating tornado tore through a northwest Chicago suburb Thursday evening, killing at least two people and leaving behind a trail of damage across several counties.
The twister leveled the small town of Fairdale in DeKalb County, killing 67-year-old Geradine M. Schultz and destroying about a quarter of the town's homes, fire officials confirmed.
A second fatality was confirmed by Gov. Bruce Rauner Friday.
DeKalb County Coroner Dennis Miller said the second victim found in the wreckage was identified as 69-year-old Jacklyn Klosa.
Miller said Klosa was found in a bathroom around 10 a.m. Friday by rescue workers. She had last spoken to her sister, telling her she was going into the shower to take cover because she didn't have a basement.
Miller said Schultz, who lives next door to Klosa, was found in the upstairs of her home by family members Thursday.
"She was removed from the home by family members and I took her from there," Miller said.
An official on Friday morning said one person in the community was unaccounted for. Kirkland Community Fire District Chief Chad Connell said roughly 11 people were taken to hospitals. None had life-threatening injuries.
"The whole town was gone," said Daniel Prothero, who arrived at the scene shortly after the storm. "It was one of the worst things I’ve ever seen in my life. It was heartbreaking."
Of about 75 homes in the village of about 150 people, 17 were completely leveled. Roughly every structure in the town was damaged, Rockford Fire Department division chief Matthew Knott added.
"This town is absolutely devastated by the tornado," Knott said.
Sycamore Fire Chief Peter Polarek said there were lots of safety issues to consider and that crews began using heavy equipment to move debris. By Friday morning, crews had twice searched buildings. A third search was planned.
"We hope that our search will be fruitless in the sense that we won't find anybody, but we're going to go through all the spaces," he said.
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In Rochelle, about 20 miles to the southwest of Fairdale, several people were rescued from the basement of a restaurant buried by debris. Fire officials said no fatalities were reported during the rescue at Grubsteakers, but some suffered minor injuries.
Ogle County Sheriff Brian Van Vickle said there was an "outstanding response" from first response entities across Northern Illinois.
Van Vickle said the storm left about 30 homes in the community uninhabitable or completely destroyed, including his own, and that access to the area would be limited only to credentialed residents until further notice.
The Summerfield Zoo in Belvidere, in Boone County, said it was also hit by a tornado, and two animals were killed. The zoo said no employees were hurt, and the remaining animals were accounted for and noted that the facility was severely damaged.
"We are heart broken at the devastation," the zoo posted on Facebook Thursday night.
A tornado was first located moving northeast at 40 miles per hour over Cherry Valley near Rockford just before 7 p.m., the National Weather Service announced, and by 7:20 p.m. the tornado was spotted on the ground in DeKalb County. By 7:30 p.m. it had moved toward the Ogle, McHenry and Monroe Counties.
Tornadoes were reported in Marengo, Harvard, Belvidere, Kirkland, Hillcrest, Cherry Valley, Ashton and Franklin Grove.
Hail the size of golf balls and wind gusts of up to 70 mph were reported in the Chicago-area storms after 7 p.m.
The Red Cross said it planned to deploy crews to help those impacted by the tornadoes.
Patricia Kemp with the Red Cross said teams planned to assist residents of Rochelle and Kirkland and provide disaster relief to the many areas damaged.
The storms canceled nearly 900 flights in the Chicago area with 850 flights canceled at O'Hare International Airport and 45 flights canceled at Midway International Airport.
Tornado watches and warnings were issued across Illinois Thursday afternoon ahead of the storms as severe weather lingered through the late evening hours.