April 20, 2004 tornado outbreak
|Date of tornado outbreak:||April 20, 2004|
|Duration1:||Approximately 4 hours|
|Maximum rated tornado2:||F3 tornado|
|Areas affected:||Northern Illinois, Northern Indiana, Eastern Iowa|
1Time from first tornado to last tornado
The April 20, 2004, tornado outbreak was a tornado outbreak affecting parts of the U.S. Upper Midwest on April 20, 2004. Thirty tornadoes formed in eastern Iowa, extending into northern and central Illinois and Indiana; a tornado that touched down in Utica, Illinois, was the only one to cause fatalities.
Utica was hit by a tornado rated F3 on the Fujita scale. The winds caused the superstructure of the Milestone Tap, a barn converted into a tavern in downtown Utica, to collapse into its basement, causing the deaths of eight people. This tornado touched down around La Salle, Illinois (in LaSalle County) around 6:09 p.m. (Central Daylight Time), and approached Utica 1 minute later. Sirens all around town signaled people to take cover. The tornado left shortly thereafter. A long-track wedge tornado immediately preceded the Utica tornado.
Damage and casualties
The tornado destroyed more than half of downtown Utica and over 100 homes. Eight people died instantly and six others were injured and trapped when the floor of a 100-year-old tavern, called Milestone, collapsed into the basement, where they had taken shelter. The collapse took place when a vehicle crashed into the tavern's main floor.
On June 2, 2004, the Village Clerk’s son was stillborn. The clerk, Angela Brown, had worked 16-hour days following the tornado hit until his birth, and she stated her doctors attributed his death in part to stress as a result of this work. In a memorial service on April 19, 2005, the city of Utica recognized him as the ninth victim.
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (February 2012)|
The Utica tornado challenged previous perceptions about tornadoes in both the formative and mature stages. Among them were the following:
Tornadoes do not form in valleys. Because of the course of the Illinois River, the town of Utica is situated about 50 feet (15 meters) below the mean elevation of surrounding terrain. In a story written by the Chicago Tribune, residents related that they did not believe that a tornado would enter the Illinois River Valley. Indeed, the tornado had damaged Granville, a town 10 miles (5 km) to the west-southwest. It then crossed into the Illinois River Valley from the south, damaged Utica, and dissipated while exiting the valley to the north.
Atmospheric conditions required to form tornadoes on a small scale. The Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma, had issued only a forecast for general thunderstorms at the time of the tornado, with a See Text message for isolated severe weather. Neither large-scale models nor local soundings by the Chicago office could predict the ultimately small-scale event that caused six supercellular storms to spawn 14 tornadoes.
Tornado safety. Tornado warnings were issued 15 seconds in advance, after the tornado had already entered Utica. Some of the town’s residents had made it to storm shelters by the time the tornado hit; however, no one could predict that the Milestone would collapse due to the force of the tornado. Thus, because of the short lead time residents had in advance of the tornado, casualties due to the tornado were very high.
As of April 2005, the village of North Utica was still working towards recovery. It has hired planning and engineering consultants (TENG Engineering) to help strategize its recovery and rebuilding. The Illinois Chapter of the American Planning Association held a pro bono Charrette to aid in this process on September 25, 2004.
Apart from plans to redevelop its destroyed downtown, the village planned a memorial for the victims of the tornado at the site of the tragedy.
On April 5, 2005, Chicago Tribune reporter Julia Keller won the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing. The series, published December 5 through December 7, 2004, was entitled Wicked Wind and detailed how the tornado affected some of the residents of Utica. In addition, The Weather Channel premiered an episode of the program Storm Stories in 2004 about the Utica Tornado Outbreak.
|List of confirmed tornadoes - April 20, 2004|
|F0||SE of Altona||Knox||2216||unknown||Brief touchdown over open fields.|
|F1||S of Camp Grove||Stark||2213||1.8 miles||Damaged barn and uprooted a tree.|
|F3||Granville, North Utica||Putnam, LaSalle||2273||15.8 miles||9 Fatalities: 8 people died when a tavern collapsed in North Utica, Illinois. A stillborn baby is counted as a ninth victim.|
|F2||N of North Utica||LaSalle||2316||9 miles||Damage to some structures and trees.|
|F1||W of Wedron||LaSalle||2355||unknown||Produced F0 damage.|
|F0||S of Sheridan||LaSalle||2383||2 miles||Unknown Damage.|
|F0||SW of Minooka||Grundy||0016||unknown||Damaged an Industrial Complex SW of Minooka.|
|F1||Joliet||Will||0075||1.6 miles||Caused US$5,000,000 in damage.|
|F1||NW of Chebanse||Kankakee||0056||unknown||Damaged Barn and Trees.|
|F0||N of Piper City||Ford||2386||unknown||Brief touchdown over open fields.|
|F0||W of Ashkum||Iroquois||2398||5 miles||No major damage.|
|F2||NW of Hopkins Park||Kankakee||0030||3 miles||F2 damage.|
|F0||SW of Grant Park||Kankakee||0105||3 miles||Minor damages to structures in Grant Park.|
|F0||SE of Beecher||Will||0130||1.5 miles||Brief touchdown over open fields.|
|F1||NW of Tuscola||Douglas||1900||unknown||Caused US$70,000 worth of damage.|
|F0||NW of Sidney||Champaign||1953||unknown||Brief touchdown over open fields.|
|F1||NW of Welton||Clinton||0013||1.3 miles||Caused US$30,000 in damage.|
|F1||Jamestown||Hendricks||2266||2 miles||Injured 8 people.|
|F0||SW of Lebanon||Boone||2275||unknown||Brief touchdown over open fields.|
|F1||E of Frankfort||Clinton||2225||3.8 miles||Caused US$250,000 worth of damage.|
|F0||SE of Russiaville||Howard County||2275||unknown||Brief touchdown over open fields.|
|F1||Kokomo||Howard||2300||.7 miles||Caused 1 injury and damaged structures.|
|F0||W of Amboy||Miami||2340||1 miles||Brief touchdown over open fields.|
|F1||SW of Lincolnville||Wabash||0013||2 miles||Caused US$70,000 worth of damage.|
|F0||N of Harlansburg||Huntington||0041||3.5 miles||Caused US$30,000 worth of damage.|
|F0||E of Huntington||Huntington||0066||6 miles||No major damage|
|F0||Point Isabel||Grant||0051||unknown||No major damage.|
|F0||N of Elwood||Madison||0040||unknown||Caused US$180,000 worth of damage.|
|F0||E of Fairmount||Grant||0043||4 miles||No major damage.|
|Sources: Severe Weather Outbreak of April 20, 2004, Tornado History Project Tornado Map - April 20, 2004, The April 20, 2004 Deadly Tornado Outbreak in Illinois and Indiana|
- Casillas, Ofelia (2005-04-20). "Utica tornado is gone, but new storms brew - Year after tragedy killed 8, town divided over honoring victims". Chicago Tribune.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to 2004 Utica tornado.|
- Chicago Tribune Special Report: Wicked Wind (Chicago Tribune)
- Severe Weather Outbreak of April 20, 2004 (NWS Central Illinois)
- Preliminary Storm Survey Results for the April 20, 2004 Clinton County Iowa Tornadoes (NWS Quad Cities, IA/IL)
- Preliminary Storm Survey Results for the April 20, 2004 Putnam & Bureau County Tornadoes (NWS Quad Cities, IA/IL)
- Tornadoes in a Deceptively Small CAPE Environment: The 4/20/04 Outbreak in Illinois and Indiana (Albert E. Pietrycha, Jonathan M. Davies, Mark Ratzer, and Paul Merzlock)
- Storm Survey Results for the April 20, 2004 Clinton County Tornadoes (NWS Quad Cities, IA/IL)
- Storm Survey Results for the April 20, 2004 Putnam & Bureau County Tornadoes (NWS Quad Cities, IA/IL)
- Storm Prediction Center 1630Z (11:30 a.m. CDT) Day 1 Convective Outlook for 20 April, 2004
- Federal Disaster Declaration (Federal Emergency Management Agency)