The signs of recovery are everywhere in tiny Fairdale.
One year after a powerful tornado slammed into the DeKalb County community, the town hosted events to mark the anniversary, recall the dead and take stock of Fairdale’s rebound.
“I remember how jarring the damage was when I visited the next morning,” Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner posted on his Facebook page following a visit last Saturday. “But I also remember how this community came together. Everyone was out wading through debris, offering aid in any way they could.
“Today we remember what we lost and celebrate what we still have.”
A recent visitor to Fairdale found a few buildings still protected by tarps or in clear need of repair. Some lots consisted solely of a flat concrete foundation or were completely bare.
But those were exceptions. Elsewhere, new and repaired houses dotted the town that had a reported population of 125 according to a 2012 estimate. It’s not known how many live there today.
The weather was already volatile late in the afternoon of April 9, 2015 as the National Weather Service issued warnings of severe storms that eventually spawned many as 11 tornadoes.
The biggest was a system that started in Lee County and moved 30 miles northeast. It grew into an EF4 twister with up to 200 mile per hour winds as it approached Fairdale.
“This long tracked violent tornado destroyed numerous homes and farmsteads — as well as tossed vehicles — along its path,” NWS said. “A tornado of this magnitude is quite rare.”
It was the most powerful twister to hit Northern Illinois since a 1990 tornado slammed into suburban Plainfield.
One witness on Interstate 39 watched the wide twister wreck farm buildings as it moved through bare fields just north of Illinois Route 64. It then crossed the interstate and headed towards Fairdale, located on Illinois Route 72 in the far northwest corner of DeKalb County.
The tornado struck Fairdale at around 7:15 p.m. and killed two women — Jackie Klosa and Geri Schultz. Many homes were destroyed while others were severely damaged.
Within minutes, police, fire and emergency responders rushed to aid the stricken town. In the days that followed, volunteers flooded Fairdale to help with the cleanup.
Since then the recovery has been slow but steady and has clearly taken root.
Last Saturday’s events also included a community breakfast while Rauner participated in a groundbreaking for a new Habitat for Humanity-sponsored home. Klosa and Schultz, meanwhile, were honored with their names inscribed on a park bench and a plaque.
— Fairdale on the mend one year after tornado —