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Aerial photo of Parsons Manufacturing Plant before the tornado.
Parsons Manufacturing Plant before the tornado (undated photo)
F4 tornado striking the Parsons Manufacturing Plant about 1 mile away.  Photo by Scott Smith (Peoria Journal-Star)
F4 Tornado striking Parsons Manufacturing Plant (courtesy of Scott Smith)
Tornado track across Woodford County
Track of tornado, from north of Metamora to south of Roanoke
 
Aerial photo of the remnants of the Parsons Manufacturing Plant
Remains of Parsons Manufacturing Plant, taken July 15 (courtesy of Woodford County ESDA)


Jump to:  Weather Setup, Radar Images, Pictures

 

Overview:

Supercell thunderstorms tracked across northern and central Illinois the afternoon and evening of July 13.  A violent tornado tracked for 9.6 miles across Woodford County, with the tornado reaching F4 intensity along a 1-mile stretch between Metamora and Roanoke.

Damage surveys were completed by National Weather Service and Woodford County ESDA personnel on July 14 and 15.  Specific details on the tornado's track follows.

The tornado touched down approximately 1.8 miles north of Metamora, a few hundred yards southeast of the intersection of Illinois Route 89 and county road 1600N.  The tornado was initially of F0 (40-72 mph) strength.  It moved southeast, and strengthened to F2 intensity (113-157 mph) near the time it reached county road 1300E.  It then began a temporary eastward movement for about a half mile, before curving southeast again.  It crossed Route 116 just west of the Route 117 junction, and was at F3 strength (158-206 mph) at this point.

The tornado increased to F4 intensity (approximately 210-240 mph) as it crossed Route 117, demolishing the Parsons Manufacturing Plant at this intersection.  Approximately 140 people were in the plant at the time, but all made it to storm shelters in time (approximately 3-5 minutes before the tornado arrived).  Steel beams and metal siding from the plant were found approximately 3/4 mile east in a farm field.

From the plant, the tornado continued east, just south of Routes 116/117, affecting 4 farmsteads approximately 1/2 to 1 mile east of the plant.  Two of the farmsteads closest to the plant (about 1/2 to 3/4 mile east) had the 2-story houses completely blown away, with only debris remaining in the basements and nearby property.  The other two farmsteads had significant damage to the 2-story houses, with outbuildings demolished.  The center of the tornado's track was about 100 yards south of the farmsteads on the south side of the highway.

From the plant to the farmsteads, the storm was F4 intensity.  The average width of the tornado during this time was 400 yards, and was close to 1/4 mile wide at times. 

At this point, the tornado began to travel in a more east-southeast direction, and caused significant damage to a barn near the intersection of county roads 1300N and 1700E. It caused significant damage at a farmstead at the southeast corner of 1300N and 1800E.  The tornado crossed 1300N shortly afterward, and lifted around 2:57 pm about 2.5 miles southeast of Roanoke, at county road 1900E.

The tornado was on the ground for approximately 23 minutes.

 

Weather Setup:

Upper-air observation from Lincoln at 7 am This is the upper-air sounding taken at Lincoln at 7 am (12Z) July 13.  The air is already quite unstable, with a lifted index of -11.
Upper air observation from Lincoln at 1 pm A special upper-air sounding was taken that day.  The 1 pm (18Z) sounding showed CAPE values were over 6400 J/kg, the lifted index had decreased to -14.7, and wind shear in the lower levels of the atmosphere were increasing.
7 am surface map This is a surface weather plot of Illinois from 7 am.  CAPE values are overlaid and shaded.  Dewpoint values in the lower 70s were common over the area.
11 am surface map The surface plot at 11 am indicated dewpoint values rising across the southwest half of the state, and were close to 80 degrees.  The CAPE values consequently rose, and were over 4500 J/kg in the white areas on the map.
2 pm surface map By 2 pm, the oppressive heat and humidity had spread east to the I-57 corridor.  CAPE values well over 6000 J/kg were common, and heat index values were in the 105 to 110 degree range.
4-panel visible satellite image This is a 4-panel visible satellite image of the supercell storms that moved across Illinois.  Starting clockwise from the upper left panel, image times were 11:01 am, 1:15 pm, 3:15 pm, and 5:02 pm.  Roanoke is located at the green X labeled "Home" in the image.

 

Radar Review:

Reflectivity image from 2:01 pm This is the 0.5 degree reflectivity image from the Lincoln Doppler radar at 2:01 pm.  The Roanoke storm will quickly evolve from the shower located just east of Spring Bay.  The site of the Parsons plant in this and subsequent images is indicated by the blue X labeled "Home".
Reflectivity image from 2:11 pm By 2:11 pm, the storm begins to grow as it approaches a separate strong thunderstorm located across north central Woodford County.
Reflectivity image from 2:16 pm At 2:16 pm, moderate to heavy rain is occurring at the Parsons plant, with the most intense part of the storm still to the northeast, approaching Benson.
Storm Relative Motion image from 2:16 pm The 0.5 degree Storm Relative Motion (SRM) image taken at the same time does not show evidence of a circulation from the southwest part of the storm.  (The radar site is located about 45 miles south of the "Home" location on the image.)
Reflectivity image from 2:21 pm The image from 2:21 pm shows the storms beginning to merge, with the western storm starting to become the more dominant storm.
Storm Relative Motion image from 2:21 pm The SRM image at 2:21 pm shows the beginnings of a circulation between Chillicothe and Metamora.
Reflectivity image from 2:26 pm At 2:26 pm, the heart of the storm is moving through Roanoke.  Note the appendage extending northwest to between Chillicothe and Metamora.
Storm Relative Motion image from 2:26 pm The SRM image at 2:26 pm is beginning to show an intensifying circulation in the previously mentioned appendage.  A Tornado Vortex Signature (TVS) is indicated by the radar, as the purple triangle in the image.
Reflectivity image from 2:31 pm The 2:31 pm radar image showed the Parsons plant beginning to see the rain taper off.  However, the appendage on the northwest part of the storm is becoming more concentrated, with a definite hook-shape indicated (at the purple triangle labeled "S1" in the picture).
Storm Relative Motion image from 2:31 pm The 0.5 degree SRM image at 2:31 pm shows the mesocyclone significantly more intense than 5 minutes ago.  Later storm damage surveys indicate that a tornado has touched down around this time.
Reflectivity image from 2:36 pm At 2:36 pm, the hook echo is quickly approaching the Parsons plant from the northwest.
Storm Relative Motion image from 2:36 pm About a mile or so to the west of the plant, the SRM images at 2:36 pm continue to show the tornado's intensification.  The bright-green and bright-red squares next to each other indicate what radar operators call "gate-to-gate shear", with winds in excess of 50 knots (58 mph) in opposite directions next to each other.
Reflectivity image from 2:41 pm At 2:41 pm, the Parsons plant is being demolished by the tornado (location indicated by the white circle).  The increase in reflectivity strength (red shades in the hook echo) may be due to debris being drawn upward, enhancing the radar beam's reflectivity.
Storm Relative Motion image from 2:41 pm The SRM image at 2:41 pm shows the gate-to-gate shear couplet over the plant site.
Reflectivity image from 2:46 pm At 2:46 pm, the tornado is moving east-southeast from the plant, with the appendage/hook still visible on the west edge of the storm.
Storm Relative Motion image from 2:46 pm The gate-to-gate shear couplet is now located between the Parsons plant and the town of Roanoke.
Reflectivity image from 2:51 pm The 2:51 pm radar image shows the appendage feature now over the town of Roanoke...
Storm Relative Motion image from 2:51 pm and the SRM image shows the circulation moving just south of town.  However, the shear is not quite as strong as earlier.
Reflectivity image from 2:56 pm At 2:56 pm, the appendage is no longer readily visible, as the storm pulls away from the Roanoke area.
Storm Relative Motion image from 2:56 pm The SRM image still shows a very broad circulation across central Woodford County, but no longer indicates a potential tornado.

 

Pictures:

 

Looking west of Roanoke, from a remote camera. Photo by Justin Weber
West of Roanoke 
(photo by Justin Weber)
Looking north from Eureka, around the time the tornado hit the plant. Photo by Sam Bertschi
North of Eureka 
(photo by Sam Bertschi)
Remains of the plant seen from the air.  The track of the tornado coming in from the northwest is shown by the dark areas in the fields. Photo by Woodford County ESDA
Parsons Plant (photo by Woodford County ESDA)
Aereal photograph of the tornado track. Photo courtesy of Woodford County ESDA
Parsons Plant (photo by Woodford County ESDA)
Tornado approaching Parsons Plant. Photo by Scott Smith
Tornado approaches Parsons Plant (photo by Scott Smith)
Tornado strikes the Parsons plant. Photo by Scott Smith
Tornado strikes Parsons Plant (photo by Scott Smith)
Tornado striking the Parsons plant. Photo by Scott Smith
Tornado strikes Parsons Plant (photo by Scott Smith)
Tornado moves away from the Parsons plant. Photo by Scott Smith
Tornado passes Parsons Plant (photo by Scott Smith)
Crane picking up vehicles at the Parsons Plant. Photo by Fred Zwicky (Peoria Journal-Star)
Parsons Plant 
(photo by Fred Zwicky)
Destruction at the Parsons Plant. Photo by Fred Zwicky (Peoria Journal-Star)
Parsons Plant 
(photo by Fred Zwicky)
Aerial photo of destruction.  Photo by Matt Dayhoff (Peoria Journal-Star)
Parsons Plant 
(photo by Matt Dayhoff)
Aerial photo of destruction.  Photo by Matt Dayhoff (Peoria Journal-Star)
Parsons Plant 
(photo by Matt Dayhoff)
Concrete storm shelter used by Parsons employees.
Parsons Plant
 
The administrative office also contained a concrete storm shelter for employees.  This was one of the few areas still standing after the tornado.
Parsons Plant
Remains of a car at the Parsons plant
Parsons Plant
Parsons plant
Parsons Plant
The remains of a car from the parking lot (northwest side of the Parsons complex) was on the south side of the complex afterward.
Parsons Plant
An I-beam and a steel equipment bucket were thrown over 1/2 mile by the tornado.
East of Parsons Plant
This concrete wall, on the western part of the complex, was broken by the tornado.
Parsons Plant
Debris from the Parsons plant was lined up in a farm field about a half mile east of the plant.
East of Parsons Plant
Rescue workers at the remains of the plant. Photo by Steve Smedley (Bloomington Pantagraph)
Parsons Plant 
(photo by Steve Smedley)
Firemen at the plant. Photo by Steve Smedley (Bloomington Pantagraph)
Parsons Plant 
(photo by Steve Smedley)
Pile of vehicles at the Parsons Plant. Photo by Steve Smedley (Bloomington Pantagraph)
Parsons Plant 
(photo by Steve Smedley)
Piles of vehicles at the Parsons Plant. Photo by Steve Smedley (Bloomington Pantagraph)
Parsons Plant 
(photo by Steve Smedley)
Remains of a truck in the loading area on the east side of the plant.
Parsons Plant
Vehicle remains are part of the debris from the loading area on the east side of the plant.
Parsons Plant
The tornado track can be seen extending east from the Parsons plant.
Parsons Plant
Tornado west of Roanoke near Ford dealership. Photo by Justin Weber
West of Roanoke 
(photo by Justin Weber)
Nothing was left standing at this former 2-story home.  Six people in the basement survived.
West of Roanoke
 
Debris is scattered all around this farmstead.
West of Roanoke
Debris is wrapped around what remains of a tree at one of the destroyed farmsteads.
West of Roanoke
This photo, looking west, was taken from a hill about 1/4 mile east of the Parsons plant.
West of Roanoke
Looking northwest from the hill east of the Parsons plant, a severely damaged farmstead is seen in the distance.
West of Roanoke
 
This was previously a 2-story house.
West of Roanoke
No walls were left standing at this former 2-story home.
West of Roanoke
Tornado approaching the Parsons Manufacturing Plant
West of Roanoke
Much of the top half of this house was severely damaged by the tornado.
West of Roanoke
This house was heavily damaged by the tornado, with almost all windows blown out.
West of Roanoke
The top half of this bus was torn off.
West of Roanoke
Photo of farmstead severely damaged by a tornado east of the Parsons Plant. Photo by Steve Smedley (Bloomington Pantagraph)
South of Roanoke
(photo by Steve Smedley)
This barn was demolished southwest of Roanoke.
Southwest of Roanoke
Damage to a farmstead
South of Roanoke
An outbuilding is demolished by the tornado.
South of Roanoke
Tornado north of Eureka and west of Roanoke. Photo by Sam Bertschi
North of Eureka 
(photo by Sam Bertschi)
F4 tornado near Roanoke. Photo by Sharol Minger
Roanoke 
(photo by Sharol Minger)
F4 tornado near Roanoke. Photo by Sharol Minger
Roanoke 
(photo by Sharol Minger)
F4 tornado near Roanoke. Photo by Sharol Minger
Roanoke 
(photo by Sharol Minger)
F4 tornado near Roanoke. Photo by Sharol Minger
Roanoke 
(photo by Sharol Minger)
Photo taken at Vermeer Sales 2 miles east of Eureka looking north at F4 Tornado 5 miles away. Photo by Glade Stutzman
Northeast of Eureka 
(photo by Glade Stutzman)
Photo taken at Vermeer Sales 2 miles east of Eureka looking north at F4 tornado 5 miles away. Photo by Glade Stutzman
Northeast of Eureka 
(photo by Glade Stutzman)
Photo taken at Vermeer Sales 2 miles east of Eureka looking north at F4 tornado 5 miles away. Photo by Glade Stutzman
Notheast of Eureka 
(photo by Glade Stutzman)
Photo taken at Vermeer Sales 2 miles east of Eureka looking north at F4 tornado 5 miles away. Photo by Glade Stutzman
Northeast of Eureka 
(photo by Glade Stutzman)
Looking north from Eureka. Photo by Brian Bill
North of Eureka 
(photo by Brian Bill)
Looking north from Eureka. Photo by Brian Bill
North of Eureka 
(photo by Brian Bill)
Looking north from Eureka. Photo by Brian Bill
North of Eureka 
(photo by Brian Bill)
Looking north from Eureka. Photo by Brian Bill
North of Eureka 
(photo by Brian Bill)
Looking north from Eureka. Photo by Brian Bill
North of Eureka 
(photo by Brian Bill)
Looking north from Eureka. Photo by Brian Bill
North of Eureka 
(photo by Brian Bill)
Looking north from Eureka. Photo by Brian Bill
North of Eureka 
(photo by Brian Bill)
Looking north from Eureka. Photo by Brian Bill
North of Eureka 
(photo by Brian Bill)
Between Roanoke and Eureka. Photo by Steve Smedley (Bloomington Pantagraph)
West of Roanoke 
(photo by Steve Smedley)
Photo of tornado between Roanoke and Eureka. Photo by Steve Smedley (Bloomington Pantagraph)
West of Roanoke 
(photo by Steve Smedley)
Photo of tornado between Roanoke and Eureka. Photo by Steve Smedley (Bloomington Pantagraph)
West of Roanoke 
(photo by Steve Smedley)
Photo of F4 tornado between Roanoke and Eureka. Photo by Steve Smedley (Bloomington Pantagraph)
West of Roanoke 
(photo by Steve Smedley)
Tornado as it touched down 1.8 miles north of Metamora at 2:34 PM. Photo by Jason Malson
North of Metamora 
(photo by Jason Malson)
Looking east from Metamora. Photo by Jason Malson
East of Metamora 
(photo by Jason Malson)
East of Metamora as the tornado headed toward Roanoke. Photo by Jason Malson
East of Metamora 
(photo by Jason Malson)
East of Metamora. Photo by Jason Malson
East of Metamora 
(photo by Jason Malson)
Destruction at Parsons Manufacturing Plant. Photo by Jason Malson
Parsons Plant
 (photo by Jason Malson)
Vehicles damaged by the tornado. Photo by Jason Malson
Parsons Plant
(photo by Jason Malson)
Heavily damaged house just south of Roanoke. Photo by Jason Malson
East of Parsons Plant 
(photo by Jason Malson)
People respond to the Parsons Manufacturing Plant. Photo by Jason Malson
Parsons Plant
(photo by Jason Malson)