- Associated Press - Friday, July 17, 2015

CAMERON, Ill. (AP) - At least three tornadoes hit communities in the northwest corner of Illinois and the central part of the state late Thursday, causing extensive damage but no significant injuries, officials said.

The hardest hit communities appeared to be Delavan, where officials said about 3 dozen homes were damaged, and Cameron, a tiny community about 60 miles away, where there was no official count as of Thursday morning but residents said a few dozen buildings were hit. Officials were also assessing the extent of damage caused by a third tornado near Port Byron in northwest Illinois.

But while the evidence of the power of the tornadoes was on display in streets and roadways littered with downed trees, debris and power lines, officials said a big reason for the lack of casualties was the calm, orderly way residents found safe places in their homes to ride out the twisters.

“When the residents heard the sirens they did exactly what they were supposed to do,” Illinois State Police Trooper Jason Wilson said of the residents of Cameron, where the house-to-house search continued Friday. He knew of only two people who suffered minor injuries from the tornado that hit at about 7:30 p.m. Thursday.

Wilson said because of the power lines and gas leaks and a continued effort to assess the structural damage to buildings, residents who evacuated in Cameron were not being allowed to return.

Cameron resident Harold Sloan, 70, said he took refuge in his basement during the twister as it roared through the community.

“I walked down the street and saw there’s houses completely destroyed, grain bins were all torn up and trees were down everywhere,” said Sloan, who said the damage to his own home was limited to some windows that were “sucked out” and some minor damage to his roof.

In Delavan, about 50 miles north of Springfield, Mayor Liz Skinner suggested that it may have been a matter of luck that there were no significant injuries. While the community was under a tornado watch, because the storm knocked out power and the backup generator did not kick in, there was no siren to warn residents that the storm was coming before it hit at 11:30 p.m., Skinner told Pantagraph.com.

The National Weather Serviced dispatched teams to all three locations on Friday to determine the extent of the damage and the strength of the tornadoes.

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