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Politics and Government

Tornado Cleanup Begins In Pontiac

Damage assessment and cleanup has begun in Pontiac after a tornado tore through the west and south parts of town Wednesday night. Mayor Robert Russell said the tornado clipped about two blocks of residential housing on the south end of the city, causing some injuries in a mobile home park.

"The good news is that nobody critical. Some broken bones and maybe a broken hip and some cuts and bruises, but if you saw the devastation that went through, we're very very fortunate," said the Mayor.

Speaking on the IPR show the 21st, the Mayor said had the path of the twister been different, it could have been much worse.

"You know when you see a tree snapped off like they are, you know that's sheer wind force. Some of them were totally uprooted. A lot of them were just snapped off," said Russell.

Fire Chief Scott Runyon said much of the destruction happened away from people.

"Mainly commercial. It started out in the rural area. We've got like six houses that are pretty well damaged out in the rural community. Probably about nine commercial buildings that sustained pretty heavy damage and then we've had a few, probably a half a dozen in town that suffered damage," said Runyon.

Russell said all streets should be open and free of debris and downed power lines by tomorrow. He praised first responders and utility company workers for the quick progress in restoring order.

Wedneday Night:

Fire officials said the twister may have touched down about 2000 North and 800 East Roads in Livingston County about 10:30 p.m. The tornado tracked diagonally toward the town and entered Pontiac around the 197 mile marker of Interstate 55. That's the Route 116 exit.

There is damage to an Amoco Station and Convenience store. Winds knocked the canopy down, overturned an empty semi tractor trailer. Across the road there was a partial building collapse at a Shell Convenience Store and damage to the front of Wal-Mart in Pontiac.

Fire Chief Scott Runyon said he was under the tornado briefly, shortly after it touched down.

"That's interesting, by the way," said Runyon.

Runyon said he was heading north at about 900 East Road watching the storm and cloud formations when visibility "went to nothing" as he drove past a farm house. Tree limbs hit his car as winds buffeted it.

"Heavy winds, rain, and I knew I shouldn't have been there, to say it mildly," said Runyon.

Runyon said he floored the vehicle and got through the worst. When he turned around and came back, he saw a tree across the road, the barn was leveled, heavy damage around the house, power lines torn away, windows broken, tree limbs through the roof, and three vehicles were smashed by trees.  

He said it was pretty close.

"You kinda have a question whether you're going to get through that one. At one point I really thought the car was probably going to lift. But, it didn't, so I was thankful for that. You know that light feeling you get," he said.

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