The National Weather Service confirms that a tornado that ripped through Washington, Illinois was an EF4, packing winds of up to 190 miles per hour. The mayor says as many as 500 homes in the town were destroyed or seriously damaged. At least six people were killed in Illinois as tornadoes touched down across the state. Gary Tuchman reports on one Illinois family who captured video of the tornado that destroyed their home and lived to tell the tale.
Editor’s Note: Click here to watch AC360 reports from the frontlines of the deadly Arizona wildfire.
The governor of Arizona has announced flags at all state buildings will be fly at half-staff for 19 days, through July 19. That’s one day for each of the 19 elite firefighters who died battling the Yarnell Hill fire near Prescott. Today the nearly 600 firefighters on the scene stopped their work for a moment of silence in honor of those heroes. The pause came as the convoy of vehicles used by the fallen Granite Mountain Hotshots were driven from the scene and back to Prescott, where the team was based. Some progress is being made in fighting the flames.
Here’s the AC360 411:
Jaenette and Kristian Coyne's home was destroyed by the blaze in Colorado. They escaped the fire with their 20-month-old baby and the few sentimental items they could pack with little time to get out.
At a local fire station on Tuesday, they watched the images on the news showing their home consumed by flames. "It was probably the worst thing I've ever seen in my life," said Jaenette. They told Anderson Cooper how they're processing the devastating destruction of their property in an interview on Thursday.
"We literally had five minutes and we left because the flames were there," said Jaenette. "The first thing I grabbed was the baby album, then I grabbed our personal computer ... we grabbed the fire box ... and that was it. We had to leave."
Firefighters made little headway Thursday against a raging wildfire near Colorado Springs, Colorado, which has scorched close to 16,000 acres, destroyed 360 homes and claimed at least two lives.
Witnesses spoke to the two victims in the afternoon, El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa told reporters.
"They said that they could see a glow to the west. They were packing their personal belongings, trying to get out," he said.
Earlier, county spokesman Dave Rose told CNN that the Black Forest Fire, burning northeast of the city, now appears to be the most destructive in terms of property lost in state history.
A fast-moving storm system struck parts of the Upper Midwest hard on Wednesday evening, delivering blows to Chicago and many other communities before moving quickly to inflict damage farther east.
The Windy City itself experienced gusts that measured about 50 mph around 6 p.m. (7 p.m. ET), in addition to dime-size hail, the National Weather Service's Chicago branch said.
Cities and towns near Chicago were affected as well.
Residents in Oklahoma who were commuting home last week when the storm gained strength became vulnerable on the highway. Some may have planned ahead to escape the tornado, but regardless they were stuck on the road and risked becoming the victim of flash flooding.
CNN's Chad Myers says a car is never a safe place to be during a twister. "When a tornado gets done with a car, there's no place left for you in it. The entire thing is smashed to bits," he tells Anderson Cooper.
The Oklahoma Office of the Chief Medical Examiner confirms at least 18 people died on Friday. Three men who lost their lives were storm chasers Tim Samaras, Paul Samaras and Carl Young. Myers emphasizes that Tim was not a daredevil and not carelessly on the road, but a scientist collecting data to better help the government.
Storm chasers Tim Samaras, Paul Samaras and Carl Young died in an Oklahoma twister. Josh Wurman talks with Anderson Cooper about the risks of his profession pursuing and studying powerful storms.
CNN's Gary Tuchman reports on a family in Oklahoma that hid from Friday's tornado in a storm drain but tragically died when the drain flooded.
Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin spoke with Anderson Cooper as tornadoes were touching down near Oklahoma City Friday night. At least 20 people died in the storms that overturned cars on the highway and left at least 86,000 people without power.
Cars stuck in traffic on Interstates 35 and 40 were in jeopardy as the twisters passed through Oklahoma. Governor Fallin said her major concern was regarding the people in those vehicles.
"We actually put warning signs with our Department of Transportation on the highway to be aware of the weather ... to try to get people, you know, just to go home," she said. After what happened to the cars in Moore, Oklahoma during a tornado last week, Fallin feared a similar scene of mangled and crushed metal.
Mayor Glenn Lewis of Moore, Oklahoma, tells Anderson Cooper he can't believe his town is bracing for another potential tornado. He spoke by phone on AC360 while awaiting the storm in a shelter.
At least four reported twisters touched down in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area on Friday night leaving more than 60,000 people without power, according to the Oklahoma Gas and Electric Company.
The National Weather Service issued a tornado emergency for areas in and near Oklahoma City, which indicates a powerful tornado could head into a densely populated area with the potential for serious damage.