TAYLORVILLE, Ill. (AP) _ The National Weather Service says a rare wintertime tornado that struck Taylorville in central Illinois was half-a-mile-wide and stayed on the ground for at least 10 miles (16 kilometers).
Weather service meteorologist Chris Miller told The Associated Press on Sunday the agency was able to give Taylorville an advanced warning of 41 minutes that the powerful tornado was headed the community’s way. The Saturday warning estimated the twister would arrive at 5:20 p.m. and it struck at 5:21 p.m.
The Illinois Emergency Management Agency has now assessed the damage in Taylorville IL and neighboring Hewittville, and 506 structures were impacted, 66 had major damage, 34 were completely destroyed, and 406 others are damaged but in habitable condition.
The warning helped residents take cover and may have saved lives. Around 30 people were injured, at least 21 were sent to the hospital with few suffering from critical head injuries, but there were no deaths.
December tornadoes are rare.
Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner toured Taylorville Sunday along with U. S. House of Representative Rodney Davis, who grew up in the town.
At least 12 were reported in Illinois on Saturday. If most are confirmed as tornadoes, Miller said that would be the most tornadoes in Illinois in a December storm since Dec. 18-19, 1957, when there were 21.
Residents in central Illinois are assessing damage from rare December tornadoes that ripped roofs off homes, downed power lines and injured at least 20 people.
The Springfield Journal-Register reports the National Weather Service sent crews Sunday to survey the hardest-hit areas, including Taylorville, 25 miles (40 kilometers) southeast of Springfield.
Assistant Fire Chief Andy Goodall spoke to reporters Saturday night after the storms raked the city of 11,000. He said at least 100 homes had major damage, including his own.
No deaths have been reported in Illinois. One death was reported in southwest Missouri early Saturday after thunderstorms there.
The National Weather Service says peak months for tornadoes in much of the Midwest are April and June.