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Twister Cuts Through Illinois Town; Storms Sweep Region

Sun., March 29, 1998

An early morning tornado flattened buildings and injured three people Saturday as thunderstorms swept across the Midwest.

The twister destroyed at least 18 houses, three businesses and an apartment building in Mattoon, said Ed Gardner, coordinator of emergency services. Dozens of other buildings were badly damaged.

“It sounded like an old B-52 bomber taking off,” said Gardner, who lives a block from some of the worst damage. “I looked out the window, and the flagpole was bent over and the flag was sticking straight out.”

Authorities said there was no warning before the tornado hit the city of 18,000 people in east-central Illinois. Gardner said it was remarkable there were the few injuries from the tornado’s swath a fourth of a mile wide and nearly a mile long.

“I think God was smiling on us,” he said.

The damage came as a line of thunderstorms rolled across the Midwest overnight and Saturday morning, hitting parts of Illinois, Indiana, southern Michigan and northwestern Ohio.

A tornado at Harlan, Ind., in the state’s northeast corner, destroyed one mobile home and a commercial building, and tore roofs off several other buildings.

Wind gusted to 85 mph near Detroit, the National Weather Service said.

About 5,500 customers in the region lost power, and the wind also overturned a truck on Detroit’s Ambassador Bridge, which connects the city with Windsor, Ontario.


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