Nov 19, 2013 12:45 AM by Kirsten Boyd
WASHINGTON, Ill. (AP) - Eight deaths are being blamed on the violent thunderstorms and tornadoes that swept across the Midwest on Sunday, but accurate predictions, timely warnings and church services are being credited with saving many more lives.
The Illinois town of Washington appears to have been hardest hit. The mayor says as many as 500 homes were damaged or destroyed by a tornado that cut a path about an eighth of a mile wide from one side of the town to the other. But at the time it struck, many families were in church, and the mayor says not one church was damaged.
Daniel Bennett was officiating a service in one of those churches when he heard an electronic warning tone. Then another. And another. He says people started looking at their phones to find a text message from the National Weather Service cautioning that a twister was in the area. Bennett stopped the service and ushered everyone to a safe place until the threat passed.