‘Thank God we still have our lives’: Tornado destroys 12 homes in southern Illinois


(Morgan Timms | @Morgan_Timms)

India Marsh surveys the destruction of her Elkville home Wednesday, March 1, 2017, after a tornado ripped through the town and several surrounding southern Illinois communities Tuesday night. Marsh said she has lived in the house her whole life.

Julie Hicks thought her mother had died.

After a tornado ripped through parts of southern Illinois on Tuesday night, Hicks arrived at her mother’s Elkville home to find a pile of debris. Family members rushed into the crumbled structure to see if 79-year-old Nadine Lacy was still alive.

“We all thought she was dead when we saw the house,” Kevin Hicks said of his mother-in-law, who lived in the now-destroyed house for 48 years. “My wife was hysterical, screaming and crying.”


After 10 minutes of searching the home on Chamestown Road and Lacy Road, Nadine Lacy’s grandson, Keith Aldridge, said he saw his grandmother in a bathroom mirror, pinned in a doorway and unable to move.

Aldridge and Jacob Hicks, the son of Julie and Kevin Hicks, carried the elderly woman from her ruined home to a car and drove her to Marshall Browning Hospital in Du Quoin, where she was treated for minor cuts on her neck and foot. She has since been released.

Local hospitals reported that four Jackson County residents were treated for minor injuries they sustained from flying debris in the tornado, the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office said.

Of the 46 residences that were damaged in the tornado, 12 are considered a total loss, according to a preliminary assessment by the sheriff’s office and the Jackson County Emergency Management Agency.

Seven-year-old Mayson Robinson, of Willisville, traverses the wreckage of his aunt Kassi Coulson’s barn Wednesday, March 1, 2017, in Ava. Tuesday night a tornado damaged the roof of Coulson’s home, from which daylight can now be seen from inside the house, destroyed the family’s barn, knocked down trees and damaged vehicles. “You just don’t think it’s going to hit you like that,” Coulson said. “All in like a blink of an eye just the wind was in here, my five-year-old’s crying and screaming. … When I was shutting that door I could literally feel the air in here. I thought that window was open, I didn’t realize it was the roof.” (Jacob Wiegand | @jawiegandphoto)


The Powerade baseball complex in Elkville sustained major damage, according to the agencies, and an undetermined number of vehicles and buildings were damaged or destroyed.

Other homes were damaged in Ava, and trees and power lines were knocked down throughout the region. The National Weather Service is scheduled to arrive in the area Thursday to further assess the damage.


The storm has reportedly contributed to the death of three people in Illinois and Missouri.

A person was killed by an uprooted tree in Ottawa, authorities there have said. And in Crossville, nearly two hours northeast of Carbondale, a 71-year-old man was killed when a twister struck a small building near a home, authorities said.

In Missouri, another person was killed when an apparent tornado moved through the Perry County area, according to the Belleville News-Democrat.

As for Nadine Lacy, she plans to live with the Hicks until her home can be rebuilt. But for her granddaughter, India Marsh, who has lived next door to her all her life, rebuilding isn’t an option.

“We had no insurance, so we are homeless now,” Marsh said, looking around at the debris that filled her living room.

Marsh, her mother and her handicapped father plan to stay at the Super 8 in Du Quoin on Wednesday night. The family is unsure what will come next.

“We really don’t know where we are going to go,” Marsh said with tears in her eyes. “This all happened so fast.”

Nearby, at the intersection of Lacy Road and US-51, dozens of community members — including the Elverado High School baseball team — helped clean debris and cut fallen trees surrounding Janet Bush’s home.

Bush, 63, said the home she purchased 12 years ago for more than $18,000 was destroyed, displacing her and her grandson, son and his girlfriend.

Bush said she was watching the weather channel — expecting the tornado to miss her area — when the wind ripped the back portion of her home off, blowing out nearly all of the windows.

“It came so quick, like, ‘Wham!’” she said. “My son hollered, ‘Mom, get down! Stay down! I was like, ‘Oh my Jesus Christ.’”

She and her family were unharmed, but one of Bush’s five indoor cats was killed. The cat was found across the street with a broken neck, she said.

After the tornado disassembled her home, Bush and her family stayed with various friends on Wednesday morning. She said she plans to tear down what is left of the structure and rebuild.

“I’m still in shock; it’s hard to believe,” she said.

Roger Barwick felt that same sense of disbelief when he came home from work at 10 p.m. Tuesday to find his childhood home destroyed and the exterior of his house shredded.

“I can’t live there anymore,” Barwick said. “My house isn’t even on its foundation.”

Although his childhood neighborhood was torn apart by the tornado, Barwick remains optimistic about the cleanup process.

“It’ll take months to get it back to what it was,” he said. “But we have a lot of help, so I’m keeping my hopes high.”

Morgan Timms
An overturned truck is seen from Illinois Route 13 on Wednesday, March 1, 2017, after Tuesday’s tornado in Vergennes. (Morgan Timms | @Morgan_Timms)

At 8 a.m. Wednesday, Heather Lewis began organizing parts of the cleanup, calling various organizations and asking people to bring out chainsaws, trailers and manpower.

The 42-year-old woman, who has resided in Elkville for about 12 years, said numerous people who lost their homes don’t have insurance and need all the help they can get.

“We’ll be out here for a month, two months; as long as it takes,” she said.

Lewis said community members, including SIU students, will gather at 8 a.m. Thursday at the Elkville First Baptist Church before heading out to help those whose homes have been damaged. People who want to help can reach her at 618-525-2933, she said.

Bush said she is thankful for the outgoing support from the community, the Elkville Police Department and employees from the nearby Casey’s General Store, who bought her family food, water and gift cards. She said she is blessed to be alive.

“I thank God for all the help,” she said. “Thank God we still have our lives because I know it took other people’s lives.”

Staff writer Luke Nozicka can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @lukenozicka.

Staff writer Olivia Spiers can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @_spierso.

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