SALEM, Ill. – National Weather Service officials confirmed that an EF-1 tornado ripped through Salem, Illinois, a small town of nearly 7,500 residents located nearly an hour and a half east of St. Louis City.
A twister formed around 8:11 p.m. and lasted nearly seven minutes. NWS reports it delivered gusts up to 105 miles per hour with nearly a six-mile path length and a 250-yeard path width.
According to NWS, no deaths or injuries were reported from Salem’s tornado. However, damage is widespread, especially in the southern part of the town.
“It was very scary,” said Salem resident Jeff Gray. “It happened so quick. I took my dog, and we went to the bathroom [for cover].”
Salem mayor Nic Farley tells FOX 2 the twister ripped off roofs of many homes and businesses. Nearly a dozen homes are seriously damaged, several more dozens suffered moderate damage, and a few storage units were ripped apart. Part of one storage unit unexpectedly ended up in a tree.
“We had three storage units that were heavily damaged,” said Farley. “Half of one is completely missing, and when I say missing, we found it, but it’s three blocks over.”
One day later, Gray is still shaken up. His home on Jefferson Street fell in the direct path of the tornado.
“That whole side of the garage is gone,” said Gray. “I had a two-car carport. It moved it like two blocks over and tore up my roof.”
Despite the devastation, Farley and Gray are thankful no one from the community was hurt.
“There’s been a lot of damage in our areas, but I can’t say enough about our first responders and just our community in whole, how we’re banding together,” said Farley.
“Everybody’s fine. That’s the main take. God is with us,” said Gray.
Farley says that Salem city officials are working to set up a foundation to support residents hit hard by the storm. Follow Mayor Farley’s Facebook page for future updates on that effort.
Due to the damage, Salem, Illinois, is under a curfew from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. through April 3.
Salem and much of the St. Louis region was under a tornado watch for several hours Friday, and some brief warnings were issued around parts of Missouri and Illinois. The storm system also posed significant thunderstorm and hail threats.
NWS has not confirmed any other tornadoes in the St. Louis region at this time, though reported some scattered instances of wind damage in some municipalities west of St. Louis County.