Salem residents vow to rebuild after tornado rips through city

Published: Apr. 1, 2023 at 11:23 PM CDT
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SALEM, Ill. (KMOV) - A day after a tornado ripped through dozens of homes in Salem, Illinois, residents vowed to rebuild.

Preliminary reports say an EF-1 tornado hit the small city of 7,000 Friday night, with wind speeds topping 100 miles per hour, according to National Weather Service.

Jared Sidener’s family scrambled into the basement of their home on S. Washington Street as the tornado passed by, blowing out windows and frying the power and destroying the roof and front porch. They had about 10 minutes of warning with phone alerts. The home is now unlivable, and the Sideners plan to rebuild.

“Rumbling. It shook everything,” Sidener said. “[It] sprayed glass everywhere. It was pretty terrifying... It shot a fireball straight through the window and blew out the window.”

City officials say about a dozen homes received the most severe damage, while three dozen more received less severe damage. Local businesses, including ‘Midwestern Barbecue’ and Casey’s General Store on S. Broadway, also received significant damage.

The damage is concentrated in the southern part of the city, the same location another tornado hit in 1996. Mayor Nicolas Farley lived in the town back then, and he says comparing the damage between the two storms is ‘eerie.’

“It’s two emotions,” Farley said. “One is sadness for people who lost some stuff. But it’s also thankful. Thankful that no one was injured.”

Farley worked through the night coordinating the city’s emergency response with NWS, which sent out surveyors Thursday morning. Ameren crews also worked all-day Saturday to repair the numerous downed power lines in the area.

The tornado picked up homes from their foundations, twisted trees and spread debris everywhere. It even destroyed several storage units. Longtime resident Tim Rooney and his family looked for memories to salvage from one of the units.

“Photos and college papers... Just trying to pick up anything we can,” Rooney said.

Mayor Farley says they plan to create a foundation where people can donate. He says the proceeds from the planned Chamber of Commerce Gala that still went on Saturday evening will also go toward victims and cleanup.

The city is enforcing a curfew in the affected area of the city from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. through April 3. The area is bounded by Blair St. to the North, Lake St. to the South, College Ave. to the West and S. Marion Ave. to the East.