Tornado touches down east of Oregon

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Mary Ann and Rich Rhoads were watching storm updates on TV from their Oregon home Saturday night when they knew one of their rental properties on German Church Road was “in the danger zone”.

“We were watching TV last night and they showed the line for German Church Road and they had this big circle and I said to Rich, ‘that’s going to get us’, and sure enough we drove out here about a quarter to 10 and it was like this,” Mary Ann said.

“Like this” included heavy damage to the old dairy barn of what used to be Ed and Ethel Dirksen’s farm. The barn’s roof was blown off with pieces of it strewn across the field to the northeast and across German Church Road.

A tornado was spotted near Stillman Valley, east of Byron shortly before 9:30 p.m., the National Weather Service in Chicago confirmed late Saturday night.

The NWS confirmed Sunday afternoon that the tornado was an EF-1, with winds registered as high as 100 mph. It lasted from 9:13 to 9:24 p.m. and traveled 7 miles.

An E-F1 tornado is capable of winds from 86 mph to 110 mph and causes moderate damage; the strongest, an EF-5, brings winds in excess of 200 mph.

Tornado warning sirens blared in Dixon and Oregon around 9:07 p.m., shortly before the Stillman Valley tornado was sighted.

The weather warning sirens in Oregon sounded three times between 9 and 9:14.

A metal machine shed which used to sit just to the west of the barn, was gone, exposing tractors and other farm machinery that was inside the property at 1314 German Church Road.

“It just leveled the machine shed,” Rich said.

The Rhoadses own the property with Mary Ann’s sister Ginger McDanel and her husband, Gary.

The farm’s house had some missing shingles from its roof. “There aren’t any renters in the house right now,” Mary Ann said.

Further north on German Church, south of the Byron nuclear generating station, a “no passing” road sign was blown over along with utility poles on the east side of the county road.

Northeast of German Church, mature trees were uprooted and another machine shed was damaged along Merrill Road.

Connie Kunce, who lives at 5947 Weld Park Road, heard all the weather alerts and was tucked inside her one-level home when she heard the storm hit.

“I was in the hallway, scrunched down,” said Kunce whose home does not have a basement. “It took the big pine trees along the house and they fell across my driveway, and it tore the electrical service lines to my house. ComEd was here and pulled the trees off of my driveway, which was really nice.”

In her backyard, a large tree laid across her LP tank, which appeared to have been moved by the wind. “So, I have no heat,” Connie said this morning as helpers arrived to clear more trees.

“We were calling her to check on her as it was coming,” said Greg Kunce, Connie’s son, who is also a firefighter.

“I had my alerts and I knew about it,” said Connie. “I’m just thankful that it missed the house. My parents planted those pine trees when their grandkids were born, so that’s like 54 years ago. They were nice trees.”

South of Weld Park Road and east of German Church, ComEd crews were busy replacing utility poles and wires along Limerick Road and Black Walnut Road.

Brad Jackson, a traffic control worker with Heels and Hardhats Contracting Co., was busy this morning placing and removing signs along roads that had downed wires or damaged utility poles. Jackson worked through the night after the tornado passed through Ogle County.

A horse watched all the activity from a barn on Black Walnut Road.

“The horse is a little rattled, but the mules aren’t,” quipped the owner.

In Whiteside County, the storm rolled in from the southwest, and proceeded into Lee County toward Dixon before heading toward Oregon.

by Earleen Hinton (2020, Mar ) Ogle County News

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Kyrie Wagner