Keensburg Illinois village damaged by tornado Thursday night

2022-06-15 18:02:24 By : Mr. Sean Song

KEENSBURG, Ill. – Residents of the small Illinois village of Keensburg spent Friday assessing damage from a tornado that hit the previous evening with little warning. 

Keensburg is 10 minutes south Mount Carmel, Illinois, and boasts an official population of just over 300, although residents said that number has dwindled to 100 in recent years. 

Severe weather Thursday night left Keensburg and other pockets of the Mount Carmel area without power and strewn with fallen trees and debris.

Late Friday, the National Weather Service confirmed that the damage was, indeed from a tornado. A survey of the damage revealed that the tornado was an F2 on the rating scale, with winds up to 115 mph. 

The tornado was 300 yards wide at its largest point, and was on the ground for 26 miles, from Keensburg in Illinois, across the south side of Mount Carmel and the Wabash River into Indiana, where it finally ended near Decker in Knox County.

More:Weather service: Damage from tornado reported in Mount Carmel, Illinois

Lifelong Keensburg resident Roberta Lambert said she heard the tornado barrel through the peaceful village Thursday night. 

"We'd probably been home 15 minutes when it happened," Lambert said. "The power blinked once, it blinked again, and then the third time it just went 'bam!'"

Lambert and other residents said tornado sirens went off about five minutes after the storm pummeled their homes and property. 

There are no reports of Keensburg residents suffering serious injuries, but damage is extensive. At least two mobile homes were destroyed by fallen trees, but they appeared to be unoccupied at the time of the storm. Falling trees also damaged cars, property and homes in the village.

Keensburg residents Michael and Stacey Whipkey said they took shelter in an interior bathroom when they heard the wind picking up. 

"I heard it coming, it was like it was right there," Stacey Whipkey said. "It lasted maybe 10 or 15 seconds, and then it was over."

Michael Whipkey said he heard his weather radio and tornado sirens blaring about five minutes after the tornado tore down his street. 

"They were saying the storm was going to go east," Michael Whipkey said. "But I told her, 'That's not going to just go straight east, that's gonna come this way.' I didn't really think much of it, but then we started to hear constant thunder and the next thing you know it was here."

The storm damaged shingles on the Whipkeys' roof, but their home was left relatively unharmed, they said. 

Lambert's home avoided serious damage too, but a tree her father planted when she was a little girl got mangled by the storm.

"Thankfully it didn't hit any of the other trees he planted," Lambert said. "He brought them as samplings from his childhood home in Tennessee and planted them here when I was little girl."

One of her father's handmade birdhouses took a hit, too. 

Keensburg residents helped each other dig vehicles out from under debris Friday morning, and nearby farmers used heavy equipment to remove larger tree limbs from residents' properties. 

The power was still out in Keensburg as of Friday afternoon. Technicians are working to repair downed power lines, and they said power should be partially restored by Friday evening. 

Stacey Whipkey said the damage hasn't stopped Keensburg's residents from helping their neighbors.  

"As you can see, everybody in this little bitty town of less than 300 people comes together," she said. "The people are really tight knit, and we help each other out."

Houston Harwood can be contacted at with story ideas and questions.