NEW MINDEN — The tiny town of New Minden took a big hit when an EF4 tornado rolled through Sunday afternoon.

Two people were killed by the storm, according to Washington County Coroner Mark Styninger. Joseph R. Hoy, 80, died at his farm at 14877 Eagle Road from massive trauma. His body was found in a field about 100 yards from his home. His sister, Frances J. Hoy, 78, was pronounced dead later at Washington County Hospital from injuries suffered during the tornado.

The Hoys lived about 2 miles southwest of New Minden, a town of about 250 that took the brunt of the twister.

“I grabbed my wife and said ‘We got to get downstairs,’” New Minden resident Ray Hausler said.

He and his wife, Eunice, who have lived in the Washington County town for about 30 years, were unharmed in the storm, but their house was destroyed.

“It’s just unbelievable,” Hausler said. “We’re just thankful to God that neither one of us was hurt.”

New Minden sits along Illinois 127, about 7 miles north of Nashville. Four homes line the west side of the highway and St. John Lutheran Church sits on the east side. All were destroyed by the tornado. Hausler said service at St. John’s ended at about 11:30 a.m., less than an hour before the storm hit. The roof of the church had collapsed and the church bell lay stuck in the ground on the north side of the building.

The cemetery next door was littered with residents’ belongings and pieces of their homes. By early afternoon, residents were searching the debris for personal belongings. Most were friends, reaching out to their neighbors in need.

“They just help each other,” Washington County Emergency Management Agency Coordinator Rick Greten said.

According to Jon Carney, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in St. Louis, the New Minden tornado had winds reaching about 180 miles per hour.

“We’re talking about nearly complete destruction,” he said. “The only thing an EF4 won’t do is wipe the foundation clean.”

That was the case with the Hauslers’ home. The main structure remained intact, but the outside walls were gone and their belongings were strewn about the yard, highway and cemetery.

“It can all be replaced,” Hausler said.

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