November 25, 2013

An up-close look at tornado ravaged Gifford

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A building in Gifford on Nov. 19, 2013.

A. H. Gorton

A building in Gifford on Nov. 19, 2013.

On Nov. 17, a set of tornadoes tore through the Midwest, leaving shattered homes and shattered lives. (See related news coverage at News-Gazette and Illinois Public Radio)
Two days later, our own Acton Gorton took a drive through Gifford the hardest-hit village of our area, to document the aftermath.

By Acton Gorton/CU-CitizenAccess — In journalism reporting, it is common to see highly personalized photographs of a ruined home being picked over by a shell-shocked family, or to see the scale of destruction from photographs taken from an airplane. All of these images serve to remind us of the frailty of our existence and the toll that natural disasters have on human life.

Though all imagery of tornado damage can be highly captivating, the up-close photograph can also be strangely isolating when considering that the next-door neighbor is suffering from an equal — yet perhaps a less photo-worthy — fate.

Likewise, photographs from airplanes provide sense of the scale of damage a tornado blowing 165 mph winds can do to a small town, but such imagery still struggles to convey the personal attachment that comes from being close to those affected. (See also this bird’s eye view of Gifford following the storm)

On a recent visit to Gifford, the clear blue sky was striking as it hung above the mess left on the ground. We took a drive through to see the aftermath.

Photos of Gifford

Children wait on an ATV outside Rademacher Building Center

An improvised supply station is setup at the nearby Gifford State Bank.

A view before and after the carnage

Before

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After

Destroyed house, just north of the German Fall Festival Building.

 

Mayor Dan Ackerman surveys damage, just west of the German Fall Festival Building.

Along East Plumb Street

Before

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After

Residents hang an American flag in front of home.

An Airstream camper originally located at further west rests in a pile of debris. Paint marks that it was checked for survivors.

 

Storage and Industrial Equipment

Before

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After

Storage containers were blown by the wind into nearby warehouses.

Supply station set up at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church

Before

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After

Supplies gathered at church with torn-up playground in background.