Peoria, Illinois: Tornado Levels Entire Sections of Town

    Billy Vestal evacuates with his daughter, Lillian Vestal, 3, after a tornado damaged the area near Chestnut Road in East Peoria, Il., Nov. 17, 2013. Intense thunderstorms and tornadoes swept across the Midwest on Sunday, causing extensive damage in several central Illinois communities while sending people to their basements for shelter. (AP Photo/Journal Star, Justin Wan)

    A tornado touched down in Peoria, Illinois on Sunday, leveling parts of the town.

    “People are searching through the rubble,” reported Alexandra Sutter of WMBD via Twitter.

    “Smells of gasoline. Houses and debris scattered,” she added.

    Weather service officials confirmed that a tornado touched down just before 11 a.m. near the central Illinois community.

    Laura Nightengale of the Peoria Journal Star said via Twitter that the damage “is overwhelming.”

    “Entire blocks have been leveled,” she said. 

    “People all over are searching through the rubble to salvage a handful of belongings. Taking what they can in their arms or a knapsack.”

    She added: “Police say clear the area. In two hours the entire area will be shut down and anyone lingering could be arrested.”

    Sutter reported that there are 37 victims currently being treated, and that officials are asking for nurses and qualified medical personnel to come to the town and surrounding towns to help.

    Within an hour of the tornado touching down in Peoria, the weather service said that tornadoes had touched down in Washington, Metamora, Morton and other central communities, though officials could not say whether it was one tornado touching down or several.

    Shelters have been opened in the following locations: 

    Harvest Bible Church, Shute School, EastSide Centre, all in East Peoria, and Sunnyland Church of the Nazarene on Summit Drive.

    Story developing; check back for updates

    MORE:

    Washington, Illinois: Tornado Destroys Numerous Houses, Overturns Cars

    Kokomo, Indiana: Tornado Causes Major Damage

    Pekin, Illinois: Few Injuries, No Deaths After Tornado Touches Down

    Coal City, Illinois: Tornado Causes Mass Damage

    The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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