SUBLETTE – June 22 marked the fifth anniversary of the devastating tornado that hit the Sublette community.
Most of the damage was done at Woodhaven Lakes and the several farmsteads near town. Fortunately, no lives were lost and only minor injuries were reported. The tornado, which was listed as an EF3 with winds of 130 miles per hour, was spotted shortly after 8 p.m. and the first 9-1-1 call from Woodhaven Lakes to the Sub-lette Fire Department was at 8:18 p.m. The fire department arrived at 8:26 p.m. and by 8:40 it had assessed the damage and immediately contacted MABAS (Mutual Aid Box Alarm System) for additional aid. Over the next few days, more than 100 fire and rescue departments assisted with the rescue operations. Rescue teams came from as far as the Chicago area, southern Wisconsin and eastern Iowa.
The Illinois Task Force, the state’s search and rescue team, responded with 80 members to also help with the rescue operations. Most of the injuries from the tornado were treated on scene, however, one injured person was transported to OSF Saint Paul Medical Center in Mendota. A shelter was set up at Ellice Dinges Center to help those whose property was destroyed. Over 1,500 mobile homes were damaged or de-stroyed and thousands of trees were uprooted. At the time the tornado hit Woodhaven, there were only about 500 lots occupied. Had it happened on the 4th of July weekend, there would have been thousands of residents in the resort.
Although the major damage was centered on Woodhaven Lakes, there was also major damage to several farmsteads in the Sublette community. The day after the tornado, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner visited the site to assess the damage. On that day, the Sublette Fire Department was also challenged with another incident as one of the wind turbines just north of town burned. The week after the storm, a church group from Kentucky came and spent a week helping with the cleanup.