Students anxiously followed Sunday night’s storms that tore through the region, leaving several dead and many without homes – concerned for friends and family members.
Hundreds of homes were destroyed from the storms that ravaged the Midwest Sunday night, including Anna Tignor’s, senior from Washington, Ill. She was driving back to Murray after her grandmother’s funeral when she got a phone call from her mother.
“She called me crying saying a storm had hit Washington and she didn’t know if our house was still standing,” Tignor said. “There was about a three-hour time period where I didn’t know if my house was still standing or not.”
Tignor said when her parents were able to get to the city she got another phone call from her mother informing her that her house was gone except for a few walls.
Tignor said at 6 p.m. Sunday after the storm had passed through Murray, she drove to Peoria, Ill., to stay the night to help with cleanup efforts the next day.
She said police were not letting anyone in the city, so she and her family had to park on the highway and walk a mile to get there.
“Some of the houses on my street were barely touched, and some houses were completely gone,” Tignor said.
According to the National Weather Service, the tornado in Washington was rated an EF-4 and winds reached 190 mph and the tornado covered more than 46 miles through several counties.
“During the cleanup, we started going through each room to see what was damaged beyond repair and what was okay,” Tignor said. “A lot of the items in our house had sentimental value. A lot of our furniture was handmade by my dad and granddad.”
Her parents will live in an apartment in a neighboring county for at least one year, until a new house can be built.
Washington was one of the hardest hit communities in the state. Six people were killed in Illinois alone and 120 were injured. Approximately 500 homes were damaged.
She said the amount of support she has seen from strangers, friends and professors at Murray State has been amazing.
“Everyone has been calling, texting, messaging me on Facebook, asking if there is anything they can do to help,” Tignor said. “Everyone has been really supportive.”
Tignor, who is a member of Alpha Sigma Alpha, said her sorority has raised $775 for her family.
In addition to Washington, the town of Brookport, Ill., an hour from Murray, also suffered damage from the storms.
Seniors Amanda Benson and Becca Bittinger, both from Brookport, were in Murray during the severe weather, but their families and friends were in the midst of the mess.
Most of the damage was from an EF-3 tornado. Winds reached 140 mph and one tornado was sighted in the area.
Benson, senior from Brookport,said Unionville Road, which connects to the road her family lives on, received most of the damage.
Benson wants to help others because a majority of the people are her neighbors.
“It could have easily been me in that situation,” Benson said. “I just saw a picture of my old elementary school gym and donations being collected there so it’s hit me very personally. I just know most people in Brookport don’t have a lot so having anything taken away is devastating.”
Benson said she had some trouble getting in contact with her parents since cell phone service was spotty, but her parents were at work when the storm hit and had a hard time getting back to their home because of debris.
Bettinger said she is trying to help her friends who are struggling with their losses.
Jessica Jacobs, junior from Brookport, is heading home this weekend to help her family and neighbors clean up the destruction.
“There are still groups accepting donations but they will not be distributed at this time,” Jacobs said. “I live out in the county so my family is fine but I have a few very close friends who have lost loved ones or have loved ones who are still in critical condition and also who literally lost everything.”
The Burrito Shack donated 20 percent of all proceeds from Thursday night’s sales to Washington for tornado relief. The Student Government Association is also collecting clothes for Tignor, her family and others affected by the tornado in Washington.
Saturday, several Murray State organizations are heading to Brookport to help with cleanup.
“It is really difficult being here and unable to help and be with my friends and family during this time but everyone is just doing the best they can,” Bettinger said. “It is truly inspiring to see my community as well as surrounding communities step forward and help during such a hard time for this town.”
Story by Meghann Anderson, News Editor