EF2 Tornado Tears Through Heart Of Mount Olive, IL

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MT. OLIVE, IL (KTVI) -The National Weather Service confirms an EF2 tornado ripped through Mount Olive, Illinois at about ten o’clock Monday night damaging homes and businesses and downing trees and power lines. The town is located in Macoupin County, not far of Interstate 55. The EF-2 tornado struck the city center, traveling east for four blocks bringing winds of 120-125 mph.

The downtown business district was hardest hit. Lisa Werner lives on the second level of a structure that was badly damaged. She and her husband run two small businesses on the first floor. They were home with their twelve year old daughter when the twister hit badly damaging structure where their house and businesses are located. “It’s been there for 150 years. It’s our home. It’s our dream home. We were living our dream,” said Werner.

While it is hard for the Werners to look at the damage to their property, especially considering they don’t have insurance to cover it, they are still grateful. “We’re just thankful that we’re all okay,” said Steve Werner.

A block away, crews moved the clerk’s office and the police department from city hall due to damage. Police made it clear officers are still on the clock responding to emergency calls. “We still will be proving 24 hour service. Don’t’ hesitate to call the phone numbers are still the same,” said Ryan Dugger, Mount Olive Chief of Police.

More than 40 homes and businesses were damaged in a four block area. Help is pouring in from surrounding communities.

The tornado blew the second floor off a historic bar. Owner Mel Bick fought tears as she stood across Main Street from her bar, Mel’s Place.

”Opened it last year in May,” she shook her head.  “And, I can’t believe this.”

”It was a lot of fun,” said bartender Jean Inman.  “I’ve just been working there a few months.”

Then a storm swept through several buildings on the west end of town.  When the winds first started howling, another bartender called Bick.

”It wasn’t busy, so she wanted to know if she could close.  So, I told her, ‘Yes.  Go ahead and close and get home,’” Bick remembered.  “She probably wasn’t home long and this hit.”

Tuesday morning, Bick saw her stunned customers staring at what was left of the bar.

”Hurt,” she said.  “Hurt in my heart, because all the work we put into that – it was just like you don’t know how fast it can be gone.  And, it was gone.”

Inman agreed.

”It’s probably going to be condemned,” then she laughed nervously.  “I may have to go back to babysitting.”

Mel’s Place used to be the old Vet’s Hall.  But, it has always been at the heart of Main Street.

”We had our wedding reception there back in 1963,” Roger Kratochvil smiled at planning his 50th wedding anniversary.  “That little part of history is gone, because that piece of the building is gone.”

Bick wondered if she could rebuild at all, but her customers were just grateful that she was safe. Kratochvil marveled at the damage on Main Street and the lack of damage to the homes on both sides of the business district.

”We’re very fortunate there,” he pointed out.  ”These things can be rebuilt.”

While there is extensive damage in downtown Mount Olive, no serious injuries were reported.

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