Cleanup after devastating storm

Local News

WATSEKA, Ill. (WCIA) — The city is no stranger to natural disasters. Tuesday, city announced a $5 million state grant to help pay for homes destroyed during record-breaking floods last year. 

Then, this week, the town was pounded with severe storms. Saturday, a group of volunteers came armed with chainsaws to help the town clean up.

Monstrous winds ripped through the area, leaving devasation in its wake. It brought down trees and tore roofs apart. Now people are doing their best to bounce back.

“We’ve had a lot of disasters out here over the last few years with floods and now this and people need help,” Denney Smith says.

The disaster relief team with Lutheran Church Charities came to the call. The director says no matter the situation or what they find, they always come prepared.

“We’ve all been trained in all kinds of disaster response work and we can be a blessing to these people. and it blesses us also,” Kathy O’Day says.

They are spending the weekend cutting up fallen trees and moving debris. One person they took care of is Donna Leiding. She says when this storm blew in she was sound asleep. 

“You can hear the winds but I didn’t hear a thump or anything,” Donna Leiding says.

But when she woke up and saw the devastation, she wished it was just a bad dream.

“I wanted to go back to bed after I looked out the window at the downed trees and things,” Leiding.

Just one of the trees blew over, but her backyard is also filled with pieces of what used to be her neighbor’s barn and a fence she says now looks more like a roller coaster. She knows the storm could have been worse, but she says it still hurts.

“My house is kind of like a pet I guess. I hate to see it harmed and my yard, my big big yard,” Leiding cries.

But she’s trying to focus on a silver lining. 

“Maybe it happening here like this preventing it from hitting somewhere else worse,” she explains.

She says she’s glad when she looked out the window this time, she saw more help than hurt.

“It was a complete surprise too. I don’t know that was going to happen,” Leiding says.

About 40 volunteers helped with cleanup. They lent a hand in surrounding areas as well.

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