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Deadly Tornado Devastates Illinois Town With Winds Up To 200 MPH

An EF-4 tornado touched down about 70 miles west of Chicago Thursday. Two people were killed, 20 others injured, and entire neighborhoods were leveled.

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A tornado that left a path of destruction, injuries, and death in Illinois Thursday has been classified as an EF-4.

The most destructive of several tornadoes that formed Thursday touched down about 80 miles west of Chicago. At least 2 people were killed and 20 others injured, Gov. Bruce Rauner said at a news conference Friday.

"This was a devastating storm," Rauner said, according to WBBM‑TV.

The National Weather Service gave the tornado a preliminary EF-4 rating Friday, packing winds of up to 200 mph. That rating was based on the level of destruction the tornado caused, and will be confirmed after an aerial survey.

In the immediate aftermath, a fire dispatcher from the town of Fairdale, Illinois, told BuzzFeed News "it was pretty bad."

Geraldine M. Schultz, 67, was discovered dead in her Fairdale home, DeKalb County coroner Dennis Miller said at a news conference early Friday morning. Schultz was not in her basement and was found by her family, Miller said.

Jacqueline Klosa, 69, was found dead in the bathroom of her home in Fairdale, ABC 7 reported. Klosa was taking shelter in the bathroom and had spoken to her sister minutes before the tornado hit, authorities said.

"She apparently tried to wait out the storm which was the right thing to do but unfortunately her house was struck by the path of the tornado," Dekalb County Coroner Dennis Miller said.

Eric Lenning, a meteorologist at the weather service in Chicago, told BuzzFeed News Thursday's EF-4 tornado was the state's worst since Nov. 17, 2013, when a storm devastated Washington, Illinois. The 2013 storm fell into a different NWS jurisdiction, and Lenning said that among the tornadoes falling within his office's coverage area Thursday's storm was unique.

"For everyone here this is the worst damage they've seen in their career," Lenning said.

He added that there is some evidence the tornado Thursday had multiple vortexes.

"There were some fatalities but the fact that it wasn't worse is something we're really grateful for," Lenning added.

Lindsay Manning, who lives in Rochelle, said she felt the tornado go over her home while she sheltered in her basement.

"I feel like it's a bad dream," Manning told the Chicago Tribune, "something I'd be watching on the news somewhere else, not in my neighborhood."

In a statement, Gov. Rauner said the state would offer assistance to those affected by the tornadoes.

"Our hearts and thoughts go out to those impacted by yesterday's storms," he said.

Rauner declared both DeKalb and Ogle counties disaster areas.

Fire officials also said that nearly all the buildings in Fairdale "sustained some damage." At least 17 structures were destroyed and around 50 damaged out of a total of about 75 buildings, CBS Chicago reported.

Some parts of Rochelle seemed to have escaped a direct hit. City Councilmember Ed Rice told BuzzFeed News he took shelter in his basement Thursday evening when he heard the tornado sirens. Based on what he could see and hear from his house, he did not believe the tornado hit the town directly.

However, he had seen reports that Grubsteakers — a restaurant just a few miles away where he ate breakfast Thursday — was hit. The Daily Chronicle reported that 14 people were trapped in what was left the restaurant, but were successfully rescued.

A police dispatcher in Rochelle, Illinois, told BuzzFeed News a tornado was "right on the edge" of the town.

BREAKING: Restaurant destroyed, employees trapped in basement at RT 64 and RT 251 in Ogle County. #tornado

At a nearby Super 8 Motel, Robin Biggs watched as the tornado "took everything out in its path," she told the Associated Press.

"I have lived her 18 years and I have never seen a tornado that big or stay on the ground that long," Biggs also told the AP.

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The Ogle County Sheriff's Department reported on Facebook that the Flagg Township area "received significant damage, rescue operations are underway." Sherif Brian VanVickle said at a news conference that the county lost 20 homes, including his own. Fifty to one hundred houses were significantly damaged.

He also said there were several people "we would consider walking wounded" who were treated at a local hospital.

According to CNN, the Rochelle Community Hospital was in "disaster mode" Thursday evening.

Other tornadoes were spotted Thursday in Iowa and Ohio, CNN reported.

National Weather Service meteorologist Gino Izzi told the Chicago Tribune there was "a path of 50 miles of intermittent tornado damage, potentially a single track or a couple of tracks." The destruction began west of Rochelle and continued toward McHenry County, Izzi said.

High quality image of Ashton, Illinois tornado this evening. #ilwx #tornado

Photos and video from the surrounding community showed leveled homes and scattered debris.

People trapped inside home. I've seen 5 people pulled so far. I'm in the Rochelle area, path of tornado @13WREX

#tornado Fairdale @TotalTrafficCHI

Images of the tornado itself showed a massive wedge that dwarfed nearby houses.

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@13WREX #tornado that went by #rochelle

A video from Ashton, about 11 miles from Rochelle, showed a narrower tornado touching down near homes.

Jim Dalrymple is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.

Contact Jim Dalrymple II at jim.dalrymple@buzzfeed.com.

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