BLOOMINGTON — For Jaimie and Sarah Stoller of rural Heyworth and their 6-month-old daughter Ella, disaster was averted by inches when a massive tree in their front yard fell during Wednesday night’s storms, just missing their home.
A tornado was sighted on the ground four miles east of Heyworth at 6:11 p.m., and the family saw it coming toward their one-story farmhouse on Illinois 136 and 200 North Road.
“I could see the funnel cloud coming all the way,” Jaimie Stoller said. “There was this classic wall cloud coming out of the south. You could see the sky turning green behind it.
“The cloud passed directly over the house,” he said. “The whole house filled with a gust of wind and as I’m looking outside, my picture window was filled with the tree falling toward the house.”
At least two tornadoes touched down in McLean County on Wednesday evening. The other, sighted at 6:21 p.m. near Ellsworth, caused no damage, officials said Wednesday night.
The tornadoes were part of a line of severe thunderstorms that damaged trees, power poles, grain bins and other structures. There were no reports of serious injuries.
An additional 10 funnel clouds that remained aloft were reported by weather spotters between 5:30 and 7 p.m. in McLean County.
It was the second wave of heavy thunderstorms to blow through Central Illinois on Wednesday.
A flash flood alert will remain in effect through this morning because rain continued into the night.
The high winds turned over William Gordon’s semitrailer truck on Interstate 74 about three miles east of Downs as he was traveling home to Peoria. He was not seriously injured.
“The wind picked up the back of my trailer. The next thing I knew, I was on my side,” said the Peoria man.
Curtis Hawk, director of the McLean County Emergency Management Agency, said the county was lucky there was only minimal damage.
“We feel real good about this one. There were several spotted with rotation, but no significant reports of damage,” said Hawk.
The only other damage reported from the Heyworth tornado was an uprooted grain bin and a downed power line.
LeRoy residents reported hearing train-like sounds that often accompany tornadoes, but the presence of a tornado there could not be confirmed, said Rodney Munster, LeRoy’s Emergency Services and Disaster Agency director.
“A couple of people said they heard a noise and that it continued for about 10 minutes. But we had our spotters out and never confirmed anything,” said Munster.
Funnel clouds were reported along a line from Heyworth northeast to the Saybrook and Colfax areas. Funnels were sighted near Heyworth, Downs, Ellsworth, Colfax, Saybrook and Anchor.
There also were two funnel clouds reported on the northeastern edge of Bloomington-Normal, leading emergency officials there to sound sirens about 6:20 p.m.
Heavy rainfall accompanied the storm in some areas.
The National Weather Service reported around 7 p.m. that nearly an inch of rain fell in the Bloomington area in a 15-minute period. The Twin Cities received about 1.5 inches in a 24-hour period ending about 7 p.m. Wednesday.
In Pekin, 8 inches of standing water were observed on Court Street at Parkway and 14th streets.
Peoria reported the highest rainfall total in the area with 2.83 inches in 24 hours.
Downed trees also were reported to emergency officials throughout the area.
Winds of up to 60 mph were also recorded in Tazewell, Logan and McLean counties.
A storm at about 6 a.m. Wednesday caused damage in Tazewell County. Part of the roof was blown of the high school in Delavan, windows were blown out of a house and a metal shed was knocked onto the road.
Showers and possible thunderstorms are expected to continue until at least this afternoon, with a high temperature of 61. Mostly cloudy skies are forecast Friday with a high near 65.
Saturday is expected to have a possibility of more storms and a high near 77. Sunny skies should return by Sunday.
Michele Steinbacher and Ryan Denham contributed to this report.