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Crews assess damages from 3 tornadoes in eastern McLean County

Two large metal tanks in front of a building, possibly used for storage or industrial purposes.
McLean County EMA
Strong storms that rolled through eastern McLean County on Thursday night caused damage to several farms in the Colfax area.

Emergency crews in McLean County visited communities affected by Thursday’s storms to assess the damage and help with cleanup.

The eastern McLean County communities of Colfax, Lexington, and Anchor were all hit pretty hard, according to McLean County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) Director Cathy Beck.

The National Weather Service confirmed late Friday that three tornadoes had developed during those storms.

“Colfax, there’s a lot of trees and a lot of power lines (down), it looks like there's about six power lines that are snapped,” Beck said Friday. “When I went out to Anchor with National Weather (the National Weather Service)… there were two different spots that were hit really hard where farm sheds were destroyed. They’re all making their way towards Lexington but it’s a struggle because there's power lines across all kinds of roads,” Beck said.

Utility crews were working throughout the day Friday to restore power to thousands of Ameren and Corn Belt Energy customers. Corn Belt reported fewer than 500 outages in McLean County as of late Friday afternoon. Ameren reported scattered outages on its website.

The National Weather Service said the storm included a large swath of damage caused by winds of between 60 to 90 miles per hour in northeast McLean, southwest Livingston and southern Ford counties. The three tornadoes, each rated EF-1, had peak wind speeds of 110 miles per hour.

"They can confirm that some of the damage was tornadic,” said Mike Albano, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Lincoln.

The weather service said the tornadoes were confirmed near Colfax and Anchor in northeastern McLean County. Still to be determined, according to NWS, were the tornado length and width and distinguishing exact tracks for two tornadoes between Anchor and Gibson City.

Albano said there was damage all the way over to the McLean-Ford county line and impacted the northwest side of Gibson City.

“We had some damage by Chenoa, a little concentrated damage patch in Colfax, and southeast of Anchor. If you connect all those it doesn't necessarily look like one circulation, a tricky one to survey to be sure but we do feel like we have enough to go off of to make the call, and we call it one tornado," Albano said.

Cathy Beck with McLean County EMA believes Lexington sounded its sirens Thursday night and Anchor did not, but Colfax could not due to battery failure.

“Colfax ran out of power early so that makes it difficult to sound the sirens … batteries only last so long. They run off of power with a battery backup and batteries last for awhile… but they’re batteries,” Beck said.

The storms did not injure anyone, but Beck is still figuring out the cost of damages.

“There were no injuries or no homes that were damaged enough to where they couldn’t live in them thank goodness. We’ll make the best of the worst,” Beck said.

Beck said the storm cleanup demonstrated the residents in these rural communities are still resilient. Community members have been working to clear the roads and help the residents.

“Ameren is out there putting things back together. Bloomington Fire Department actually went out last night [Thursday] and did some mutual aid to help with the roads which was incredible. Everybody’s pitching in," Beck said.

Beck said railroads have needed work as well to clear them of debris.

Lexington East Road was closed on Friday due to major power lines down in the area. Holder Ellsworth Road was also closed because of a downed power pole.

In the village of McLean in southwestern McLean County, two large trees are down, along with numerous large tree limbs, according to the National Weather Service. Trees are also down in Lexington, some on power lines, and a semi-trailer has turned over. Additionally, a tree was reported down across Illinois Route 9 on the Cooksville-Ellsworth blacktop.

The storms, which included lighting, wind gusts of up to 60 miles per hour, and large hail, lost some steam as they cut through central Illinois from Iowa and Missouri on Thursday evening.

The threat of potentially dangerous weather Thursday night prompted the cancellation of the first night of the Tailgate N’ Tallboys country music festival at the Interstate Center in Bloomington.

Gaige Owens is a student reporting intern at WGLT. He joined the station in 2024.
Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.