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Tornado victims begin to pick up the pieces after destruction

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Photo: Video by tmj4.com

Tornado victims begin to pick up the pieces after destruction

By Jaclyn Brandt and the Associated Press. CREATED Nov 19, 2013 - UPDATED: Nov 19, 2013

WASHINGTON, Ill. - Residents of Washington, Illinois are trying to pick up the pieces after a tornado leveled much of their town on Sunday.

Hundreds of homes were torn apart by a massive tornado. Debris and belongings scatter the Illinois landscape. Power is finally back on in some spots – 45,000 outages were originally reported in the area – and folks are starting to be allowed back into their neighborhoods.

At first, firefighters wouldn't let people onto their own property because of safety concerns, but those restrictions have been relaxed. Homeowners have been sifting through the rubble for their possessions.

Washington is a close-knit community, and one of the high school football teams even took to front yards to help. Seven players lost everything, and that team doesn't leave a member behind.

Today, homeowners will be back, trying to salvage whatever they can. The Red Cross has set up shelters and is providing assistance while emergency management teams try to get a handle on the damage.

Meteorologists with the National Weather Service say preliminary surveys show at least 11 tornadoes touched down in Illinois during Sunday's storms.

Crews surveying damage reported five tornadoes in central Illinois, three in northern Illinois, two in southwestern Illinois and a one in far-southern Illinois.

At least two of the tornadoes have preliminary designations as EF-4s, the second-strongest rating given to the twisters.

One of those tornadoes hit the central Illinois community of Washington. It had winds that reached 190 miles per hour. That funnel cloud was on the ground for more than 46 miles.

Another tornado that hit Gifford had winds reaching 140 miles per hour and had a path that was 24 miles long.

Six people died in the storms and about 200 people were injured.