By MAGGIE MENDERSKI
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
HANNIBAL, Mo. – Clusters of downtown merchants and residents examined the damage lining the heart of America's Hometown on Monday evening following a brutal storm.
Without power, facts among residents remained thin even two hours after the storm had waned. Some parked on the street and listened to their car radios for information. Others weren't aware the tornado watch and warning had been lifted. Many had come to see if anyone needed help, but without light, cleanup efforts were fruitless.
"It's too dangerous right now. We even can't see," Nancy Miller, co-owner of the Ralls County Clock Shop at 207 N. Main, said.
The National Weather Service will send a survey team to Hannibal on Tuesday to determine "if it was tornadic damage or straight line winds," said Julie Phillipson, a meteorologist in the St. Louis office of the NWS.
The team will make its decision based on "the characteristics of the damage and if they observe any sort of patterns in the damage itself," Phillipson said.
Hannibal was one of the hardest-hit areas in Monday night's storm with quite a bit of damage reported in the Mount Olive, Ill., area in eastern Macoupin County.
The forecast calls for more thunderstorms late Tuesday afternoon and Tuesday night, the same time frame as Monday's storm, but "hopefully not as severe," Phillipson said.
The Hannibal School District canceled classes for Tuesday.
The Hannibal Police Department was without power from 7:45 p.m. Monday to about 1 a.m. Tuesday. The department operated on a backup generator.
Groups of strangers and friends gathered around flashlights and cellphone lights Monday night. As they approached one another, the power outage masked the faces of friends and neighbors. They introduced themselves and told stories of from where they had watched the storm.
Each crowd and passerby seemed to take an unofficial inventory of the damage. The storm bit into Groomingdale's Pet Boutique at 308 N. Main. The winds knocked a chunk of bricks from near the roof and splattered them on a parking lot below. A nearby art gallery, Kerley's Pub, The Murphy Motors building and the Hannibal History Museum appeared to have taken the brunt of the storm, too.
Todd Rourke, a local art dealer, lost two paintings and a couple windows in the storm. He hadn't been home when the damage occurred.
"I pulled up and thought, ‘Wow, that window looks clear.' Then I realized it had blown in," he said.
Still, he left his own building and wandered. His damage seemed minimal compared to the wreckage near Main and Bird.
"I heard about this and came down to see if anybody needed any help," Rourke said.
Dana Breaux, who lives near the corner of Main and Center, had watched the storm from a second story apartment window. Two hours later, as she stood among a disheveled mess near North Main and Bird, she wondered where the city crews were helping.
"The rest of the town must be bad if they haven't come to their favorite part of town," she said.
Downed wires and trees were found in Quincy and Adams County as storms passed through around 7:30 p.m..
John Simon, director of the Adams County Emergency Management Agency, said he received reports of structural damage out of Plainville. Nearly 700 people in Adams County lost power Monday night, according to Ameren Illinois.
Weather spotters reported wind gusts of up to 60 mph in the county.
"This could have been a straight-line wind event," Simon said. "There might have been some rotation in some areas. To really tell, it would have to depend upon what the damage looks like."
Tornado sirens were activated in Liberty, because the same storm cell that passed through Hannibal was tracking towards Liberty, Simon said.
It is early in the damage assessment process.
"We're out doing damage surveys right now," Simon said.