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West Frankfort

7-minute tornado leaves path of destruction behind in West Frankfort

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NWS Preliminary Damage Survey

The National Weather Service's preliminary damage survey of the tornado that went through West Frankfort.

WEST FRANKFORT – Sunday night’s tornado that pummeled the city of West Frankfort lasted roughly only seven minutes but left significant damage in its wake.

An EF-1 tornado with estimated peak winds of 95 miles per hour traveled 4.6 miles through the city, causing damage to multiple businesses and homes, according to a damage survey by the National Weather Service.

The tornado lasted from 10:21 to 10:28 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 5, according to the NWS.

Weather experts say the exceptionally warm December day, coupled with a potent cold front, was the perfect recipe that sparked the widespread storm system that devastated businesses, damaged homes, toppled trees and greatly impacted the city. 

“During this time of year we’re kinda in winter, but we get these warm days and then a cold front comes in and the air is quite a bit colder usually,” Brian Miller, a NWS administrative assistant, said. “It creates this perfect scenario for severe weather and it usually produces tornadoes in our area.” 

The West Frankfort city’s sirens did not go off to alert residents about the tornado as 911 dispatch’s power had been knocked out and the backup generators were not functioning, Fire Chief Ryan Buckingham said. 

The city and emergency personnel are looking into the issue and how to prevent it in the future.

Buckingham said this illustrates the importance of families having multiple notification systems in place.

“In some instances the warning happened very fast and power was already lost to some areas so the warning sirens were not activated,” said Buckingham. “We’ve always talked about this. You can’t depend on just an outdoor warning sirens or just your ‘all hazards’ radio. You need to have multiple ways to do that and this is a prime example of that. I would encourage people to continue to plan for severe weather.”

The tornado primarily followed a path north of State Highway 149 extending from just west of West Frankfort in a northeast direction out near Deering Road, according to the preliminary data of damage collected by the Franklin County Emergency Management Agency.

No injuries or deaths have occurred in relation to the tornado, Buckingham said. 

The majority of damage occurred in the west section of the city near Ken Gray Boulevard, Buckingham said.

A pole barn collapsed after it had been blown off of its foundations, Miller.

The LC Worldwide Storage on Ken Gray Boulevard had its doors and roof blown off, sending debris everywhere, Buckingham said.

NWS cited downed trees, roof damage and some house/business damage in their assessment.

“Continue to steer clear of the workers that are currently trying to restore power in different areas,” Buckingham said Tuesday. “We still have some debris up in trees and things like that so you have to watch for falling debris. It’s best to just stay away from it.”

At one point, just over 2,000 households were without power because of the tornado, the NWS said.

By Tuesday, the majority of homes had restored power, Buckingham said.

If your home has sustained significant structural damage and you need assistance, you can contact the American Red Cross at 844-319-6560.

The Illinois Baptist Disaster Relief is offering chain saw services to those who need assistance clearing tree debris from their home. You can contact them by calling the West Frankfort First Baptist Church at 618-932-2105.

All data is subject to change as damage reports continue pending a final review of the event and publication of the data. 

“What will it take? Is there a crime involving guns in America so horrific that finally we'll say enough?” U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, said on the Senate floor Thursday.

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