Related: At Least 10 Dead as Tornado Hits US Midwest
At least six have been killed and more than 100 injured after severe storms and tornadoes struck the Southern Illinois town of Harrisburg early Wednesday morning.
Authorities said that 250-300 homes and 25 businesses were also damaged or destroyed by the severe weather, which began at around 4:56 a.m. local time Wednesday and also knocked out power for over 12,000 nearby residents.
In response to the disaster, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn directed the Illinois Emergency Management Agency to activate the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) in Springfield. Quinn also said he planned to visit the affected areas later in the day. "At least six people have lost their lives in the wake of these storms, and our hearts go out to their families and the many others who were injured or suffered a devastating loss," Quinn said in statement.
Harrisburg Mayor Eric Gregg told CNN it appeared a tornado stayed on the ground for a few miles in its tour of the city, and the path it cut was the length of at least 3-4 football fields in areas, leaving a strong of damage in its wake. "In areas we've got homes and semis toppled, cars thrown in lakes and everything else -- I mean you can't imagine how devastating it is until you're there, it's nothing like I've ever seen," Gregg said of the destruction.
Of the emotional repercussions of the storm Gregg called the disaster "heartbreaking," adding that in a small town of Harrisburg the loss was especially acute, as in the small town of 9,000 everyone knew each other and were especially close.
Illinois was not the only Midwestern state struck by the severe weather in the last 24 hours, which have left at least three others dead.
The U.S. National Weather Service confirmed a tornado struck Harveyville, Kansas at around 9 p.m. local time Tuesday, while Kansas Governor Sam Brownback declared a state of emergency in response to the disaster.
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon also declared a state of emergency early Wednesday morning, when the severe weather struck the city of Branson and caused at least three deaths, "numerous" injuries and significant damage in Southeastern and Southwestern Missouri.