CHICAGO (AP) — Gov. Pat Quinn asked the White House on Monday to declare 15 Illinois counties to be major disaster areas, after a single storm system this month spawned 24 tornadoes in Illinois that killed six people and damaged or destroyed more than 2,400 homes in the state.
Two of the tornadoes that touched down Nov. 17 were the strongest November twisters ever recorded in the state, the National Weather Service said in a news release Monday that listed the strength and other details of each.
"This was historic," said Dan Smith, a meteorologist in Lincoln, Ill. It was Illinois' deadliest November day of tornado strikes in the 63 years that records have been kept.
In Indiana, 28 tornadoes touched down that day — a record for any November day there, according to the weather service — but no one was killed. Three people were killed in Michigan, including a boy who died Saturday of his injuries.
The tornado that hit the central Illinois community of Washington was, not surprisingly, one of the two most powerful EF-4 tornadoes and stayed on the ground for more than 46 miles — at least 16 miles longer than any of the other tornadoes.
Three of Illinois' six deaths were from the two EF-4 tornadoes and a total of 147 people were injured — 125 of them in Washington — according to the weather service.
The tornado was a half mile wide when it struck Washington and destroyed or damaged more than 1,000 homes. It started at 10:59, seven minutes after the state's first tornado hit. In all, the tornadoes kept coming for more than three hours. The last one, which hit Brookport in southern Illinois and stayed on the ground for 11 miles, was the deadliest, killing three people.
Since that Sunday, local and state officials have descended on the hardest hit communities — first to search through the rubble for people who might have been killed by the tornado or trapped inside what was left of their homes.
On Monday, Quinn's office said in a news release that if the governor's request to President Barack Obama is approved, residents would be eligible to apply for grants and low-interest Small Business Administration loans and businesses would be able to apply for those loans as well.
"We expedited the damage assessment process in order to submit this request and the required documentation as soon as possible," Quinn said in the release.
The release also said there is also a chance the federal government might help pay back state and local governments some of the money they spent as a result of the earthquake.
Quinn's office also said the cleanup of debris was continuing, with state transportation workers as well as crews of state prisoners helping with the effort.
Meanwhile, investigators from Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office have been working in tornado-damaged communities since the storm hit. Madigan noted that hundreds of contractors have arrived in Washington, and her office is already examining an out-of-state group for a potential scam tied to the relief efforts.
Hundreds of contractors have arrived in Washington, raising the possibility of fraud, Madigan said.
"The hope obviously is that all, if not the vast majority of those contractors, are truly there to help people," Madigan told reporters. "But the reality is that every time one of these devastating storms takes place, a percentage of those people and organizations are scam artists. And they end up causing human made tragedy on a natural disaster."
The investigators were dispatched after the storm and have set up offices to help with permitting. Madigan said their presence could also help scare off potential scammers.
Associated Press writer Sophia Tareen contributed to this report.