Wicked night of storms in central Illinois


DECATUR - Another round of storms pounded central Illinois Friday night leaving a path of destruction.

Heavy winds, rain, and flooding punched the area with a fury people were only beginning to realize Saturday morning.

Power lines were downed and buildings were damaged in Gillespie. There are numerous reports of damage in Decatur and Macon County. Flooding remains a danger; in Springfield, streets and viaducts were flooded.

The National Weather Service says the storm produced winds of up to 80 mph and several inches of rainfall.

Weather Service crews are assessing damage Saturday in Macoupin County northeast of St. Louis, trying to confirm whether tornadoes dropped down from the storm.

The high school in Macoupin County's Gillespie sustained extensive damage after the gymnasium roof collapsed.

Electric utility Ameren says 84,000 homes and businesses it serves around St. Louis were still without power as of midday Saturday, along with 15,000 from St. Louis' Illinois suburbs to central Illinois' Champaign area.

Progressive Auto Insurance published the following information about dealing with flooding situations:

1. Pay attention to barricades.
Don't ignore them by driving past them.
2. Do not drive through standing water on roads or in parking lots.
The average automobile can be swept off the road in 12 inches of moving water, and roads covered by water are prone to collapse. Attempting to drive through water also may stall your engine, with the potential to cause irreparable damage if you try to restart the engine. If you come upon a flooded street, take an alternate route.
3. Take extra precautions if you're forced to drive through water.
If no alternate route exists and you have no other reasonable alternative but to drive through standing water.
4. Do your best to estimate the depth of the water (if other cars are driving through, take note of how deep the water is).
5. Drive slowly and steadily through the water.
Avoid driving in water that downed electrical or power lines have fallen in — electric current passes through water easily.
6. Watch for items traveling downstream — they can trap or crush you if you're in their path.
If you have driven through water up to the wheel rims or higher, test your brakes on a clear patch of road at low speed. If they are wet and not stopping the vehicle as they should, dry them by pressing gently on the brake pedal with your left foot while maintaining speed with your right foot.
7. Stay off the telephone unless you must report severe injuries.
8. If your vehicle stalls in the deep water, you may need to restart the engine to make it to safety. Keep in mind that restarting may cause irreparable damage to the engine.
If you can't restart your vehicle and you become trapped in rising water, immediately abandon it for higher ground. Try to open the door or roll down the window to get out of the vehicle. If you are unable to get out safely, call 911 or get the attention of a passerby or someone standing on higher ground so that they may call for help.

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