A dangerous storm system passed through the Midwest on February 29th, 2012. Dubbed the “Leap Year Tornadoes,” parts of the Midwest were hit hard. The morning after the storm passed through Harrisburg, IL our disaster team gathered to talk about a possible deployment. The small town in Southern Illinois had six deaths (a death a week later would result in seven), and initial reports were suggesting around 300+ damaged structures.
By 3PM I was on a plane headed to Illinois. I arrived 18HRS after the tornado hit. The small community had more resilience, hope, and heart than any I’ve ever seen or experienced. The resulting photos tell the story of Harrisburg, Illinois in the first few weeks of March 2012.
A crushed car sits in the wake of a tornado that passed through Commercial Street.
A couple sits on the front steps of what used to be their home, taking a quick smoke break. They have all their personal items gathered and sitting in front of them. All that’s left is the brick foundation.
Saline County Emergency Management Officials discuss the relief efforts in Harrisburg. An Emergency Operations Center (EOC) was established in the city’s courthouse. The efforts of many different groups must be organized so no effort is wasted or duplicated.
(L) The electric companies work on restoring power to the hardest hit areas of Harrisburg.
(R) A chair lies abandoned in the street, missing its legs.
An Operation Blessing volunteer cleans up debris in Harrisburgm IL. Debris had to be sorted into different piles: construction debris, white goods, hazardous materials, vegetation, and electronics.
An exposed home sits on Texas Street in Harrisburg, IL. The living room faced the path of the tornado, and took the brunt of the damage when it passed through. The couch remains eerily in place.
A man sifts through debris, collecting coins that were scattered.
A volunteer cuts debris with a chainsaw. By cutting into smaller pieces, volunteers can manage the debris removal by hand.
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