Path length: 12.73 miles
Width: 880 yards
SPC coordinates: Start: 39.414 / -89.395 End: 39.5784 / -89.2976
On December 1, 2018, a regional outbreak unfolded across Illinois, resulting in 29 total tornadoes in the late afternoon and evening hours. Of the twisters that occurred, one was rated EF3, with three more being rated EF2. This summary will focus on the EF3 tornado that struck Taylorville, IL, with the most intense damage being southwest of the city in the unincorporated community of Hewittsville.
The funnel began three miles east of Morrisonville, taking a northeasterly track, nearly paralleling Illinois Route 48. The tornado struck a large farm on East 500 North Road, completely destroying several barns. The top of a grain silo was removed. As it moved to the northeast, an outbuilding was obliterated, and significant damage occurred to a home. The chimney collapsed, and the decking of the roof was peeled away. Heavy tree damage was noted just below the South Fork Sangamon River, with many limbs being knocked down.
As the tornado neared South Fork Sangamon River, it veered to take a more northerly track, heading straight for the center of Hewittsville. As the twister entered the community, it intensified along Jaycee Road. A residence had most of its exterior walls knocked down. Significant damage occurred to mobile homes just north of this location, and a woman was injured while sheltering.
Further along the path, on North Houston Street, a massive tree fell onto a residence, and it shifted off the foundation. A double-wide mobile home was also destroyed in this area. Trees surrounding the home were partially debarked. Another two-story house had large portions of the roof removed and was pushed off of its foundation.
The twister pushed north-northeasterly and encountered the more densely populated areas of Hewittsville. When the tornado came to Coal Street, all Vickie Barker could do was freeze, she told Herald and Review in an interview on April 28, 2019. Shortly before the tornado struck her home, she heard a freight train-like noise, and then her residence was destroyed around her. Windows broke, and branches from surrounding trees flew into her home. Barker’s husband, Larry, was hospitalized after he inhaled natural gas fumes following the storm. He was eventually released to Vickie and recovered in their temporary home outside of Taylorville.
Just north of West Calvert Drive, an old miner’s cottage was demolished with all walls being knocked down, leaving behind a pile of debris. Across the street, a home suffered complete removal of its roofing. Northeast of this location, a metal factory experienced intense damage, with total destruction to a large section of the building.
As the tornado crossed from Hewittsville into Taylorville, it weakened slightly. Several homes in the vicinity of West Waco Street suffered severely, having their roofs removed and, in some cases, an exterior wall or two knocked down. The twister maintained its intensity as it approached Illinois State Route 29, after which it weakened. Damage to home roofs was observed just north of State Route 29. A few poles were hit along County Highway 22 before the twister lifted, about 1/4 mile south of E 1600 North Road.
As a long-time Red Cross volunteer, Kathi Knope had toured the United States, helping with various natural disasters. In all her travels, she’d never imagined that she would have to set up shop in her own hometown, she told Southern Illinoisan on December 4, 2018. Kathi and her husband were initially skeptical when tornado warnings were issued, as it was December. But once she saw the hail on her front lawn, her instinct was to shelter in the basement. When the couple emerged from their safe place, they found that the garage had been shifted into the neighbor’s backyard. In the aftermath of the tornado, she was one of the volunteers out and ready to help her community.
While the tornado had devastating impacts on Hewittsville and Taylorville, thankfully, no fatalities occurred. Immediately following the storm, around 4,000 truckloads of trees and other debris were hauled away from the areas affected. Thirty homes were destroyed, and approximately 500 more were damaged in some capacity.
In the months following the tragic storm, the community of Taylorville came together to respond. Donations of food, clothing, and money poured in to help residents impacted by the twister. When describing the recovery efforts, Shirly Niethe, manager of the local Ace Hardware, told Herald and Review, “That’s just how Taylorville is,” in an April 28, 2019 article. Residents like Vickie Barker plan to rebuild. “We surely could’ve gotten another house, but this is my home.”
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