Storm damages high school gymnasium, businesses

Stephanie Markham, Editor-in-Chief

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated as of 3 p.m. 6/11/2015 to reflect that no injuries resulted from the storm. Incorrect information was supplied to The Daily Eastern News.

Severe weather in Coles County ended with straight-line winds damaging Charleston High School’s gymnasium Sunday.

Charleston Fire Department Chief Pat Goodwin said no injuries occurred as a result of the storm, though there were 29 reports of vehicle or structural damages.

Dan Ensign, the Coles County Emergency Management Agency director, said the damage to Baker Gymnasium at CHS is estimated to cost about $500,000 or more.

He said water damaged the gym floor causing it to warp, and it will have to be replaced along with the tile and insulation.

Special teams will have to come in and remediate the insulation replacement, Ensign said. The roof will also have to be repaired.

He said some Charleston businesses also lost and will have to replace portions of their roofs, and many power lines and trees had fallen down.

“It was hard to assess the damage we had because of the power lines; you couldn’t get in there to the residences to see how bad they were,” Ensign said. “We had to wait until (Monday) morning when Ameren got there to get power restored so we could see what’s going on.”

Additional damage occurred to an empty grain bin on North Fifth Street that was taken off its foundation and crushed, the cost of which is still unknown, Ensign said.

He said a cold front came “out of nowhere” and slowly approached the Coles County area where it mixed with a warm front. The National Weather Service issued a severe thunderstorm warning from about 7:20 p.m. to 10:45 p.m. A watch was then issued until 3 a.m. but was canceled at 12:10 a.m. Monday.

Ensign said Ashmore was under a tornado warning during the same time of the thunderstorm warning.

“They did have damage from straight-line winds,” he said. “(There was) rotation in the air in Ashmore, but it never touched down and formed into a tornado.”

Meanwhile, Mattoon only experienced rain and wind and did not report any damage, nor did any other town in the county.

Ensign said straight-line winds build up in the atmosphere until they shoot down with 80 to 90 mph winds. Though they cause damage like a tornado would, straight-line winds do not have the rotation of tornadoes.

“I’d rather have the straight-line winds than I would a tornado,” he said. “The damage is not enough to level a house. It does damage that’s repairable, but generally people don’t die from it.”

The Coles County area was also under flash flood warning because the 6 inches of rain in Champaign could have potentially overflowed the Embarras River, Ensign said.

“All in all, we got lucky,” he said.


Stephanie Markham can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].