Washington community looks back at tornado 8 years later

Local News

WASHINGTON, Ill. (WMBD) – Eight years ago Wednesday, a tornado touched down in Washington, leaving behind destruction in its path.

Wednesday, community members and leaders shared how the city has recovered since the storm.

“It was just a gut punch. It’s something you’re never ready for,” said Gary Manier, the Mayor of Washington.

Eight years ago, an EF4 tornado leveled more than 1,000 properties in Washington and killed three.

Washington resident Christine Nenne recalled the moment she heard the twister, while taking cover in the basement with her husband.

“Some say it [sounds like] a freight train, [but] to me, it sounded like a chainsaw going off because you hear all this winding noise,” Nenne said.

After leaving her basement, Nenne said she was able to see the magnitude of what took place.

“I looked out in the yard and huge trees were uprooted, and then I looked at the house, and the walls were all gone. My car was all damaged,” Nenne said.

Manier said in the hours immediately after the tornado, there was an outpouring of support.

“Two or three hours into it, we had to shut the borders down with doctors and nurses that were coming in, [because] 200 or 300 people showed up to help us,” Manier said.

In the days following, Manier said the resiliency of Washington residents was on full display during clean-up efforts. He said Washington has always been a tight-knit community, but became even closer in time of need.

“I think it was the desire to stay here and put the town back together and make sure it was great Washington again. I think that was loud and clear to everybody,” Manier said.

With a new home built in the same location and her neighborhood now standing tall, Nenne said a valuable lesson was learned from the situation.

“Don’t give up because when devastation happens, good things do turn around and happen,” Nenne said.

Manier said it would’ve been easy for some Washington residents to just leave the area after their homes were destroyed, but he’s proud that people stayed and helped the city move forward.

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