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Strong storm knocks out Gillespie High School gymnasium (UPDATED)

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High winds leave over 50 residents with roof damage

Front of the Gillespie High School gymnasium after winds ripped the roof off the front of the building.

Front of the Gillespie High School gymnasium after winds ripped the roof off the front of the building.

UPDATE: The National Weather Service issued a statement at 6:35pm on Saturday, June 1 classifying the storm as an EF2 tornado with wind speeds as high as 115 mph. The path length was estimated to be .93 miles and zero injuries have been reported.

Severe thunderstorms moved through the BenGil area around 9pm last night, May 31, damaging the facade of the Gillespie High School gymnasium built in 1928 and lifting houses off their foundations. Heavy rains and high winds swept across the area leaving the north end of Gillespie without power. Power was not restored until 8:00pm Saturday evening.

Chief of Police Jared DePoppe told us there were no reports of any injuries and no one was inside the gymnasium when winds ripped the roof off the front of the building. Before winds ripped the roof off the front of the gymnasium, the storm leveled the concession stand that stood at the north end of the Schmidt Complex.

After blowing over the concession stand, winds blew doors open and derailed garage doors from their tracks at the back of the gym where the weight room was housed. DePoppe said the Gillespie Police Department will guard the gymnasium throughout all hours of the night and day making sure intruders do not raid the school.

The high winds also knocked down trees and power lines leaving Route 16 blocked near the high school and near Kravanya Funeral Home. Winds lifted a house off its foundation on the north side of the city near Route 4 leaving the roadway to Carlinville closed until early morning hours.


See more photos from yesterday’s storm on our Facebook page! Click here to view the photos from last night and here to view them from this morning.


The tornado siren blared at 8:50pm, moments after the storm caused destruction at the district 7 campus. Residents living on the northwest edge of town said the siren was impossible to hear. Another resident reported the siren near the water plant does not even work. The public safety committee has recently been discussing the warning siren problems inside the Gillespie community.

Back of the high school gymnasium where the weight room was housed.

Back of the high school gymnasium where the weight room was housed.

Multiple power lines dangled across roadways on the north end of Gillespie at early morning hours of June 1 while city maintenance crews did their best to clear the roadways. Crews were on the clock all hours of the night last night making sure roadways would be clear by sunrise. The police department, fire department, and Gillespie/Benld Ambulance Service made sure everyone was safe. Fire engines and squad cars patrolled the streets with floodlights checking on nearly every single house.

“We want to make sure everyone is safe,” Chief DePoppe told us. In a community of 3,500 people, over 50 houses had roof damage after the storms yesterday evening. Majority of the damage was north of Broadway Street and north of Elm Street. Homes on Western Avenue, Frey Street, Francis Street, Henry Street, and Park Avenue took the hardest hits last night.

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The BenGil community was struck by a tornado four short years ago on May 13, 2009. The tornado in 2009 was reportedly 20 to 30 yards wide causing widespread damage in the center of the business district in Gillespie. Wind speeds between 60 and 80 mph destroyed the locker rooms at the high school football field and caused $2 million in damage to the high school and middle school.

Area citizens had a positive heart about the most recent happenings early this morning as community members started trending #FighttheFight on Twitter. Fight the Fight business owner, Pete Visintin Jr., took his thoughts to Facebook late last night telling the community to stay strong.

“Nothing we can’t handle. Did it before and we’ll do it again,” Visintin wrote. Kylie Frensko, a recent 2013 graduate from GHS, added her support on Facebook as well. “Memories will last forever,” Frensko posted on Facebook, “Just because our gym is gone, doesn’t mean our memories are gone. #minerpride”

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Thunderstorms, winds, snow, freezing rain coming to BenGil area

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Another major winter storm is forecasted to blanket the BenGil area in heavy rains, flooding and snowfall starting Wednesday night through Thursday.

The mixture of precipitation and rapidly changing weather likely will produce the potential for sudden icing on roads, with high winds leading to blowing snow and reduced visibility.

“The Illinois Department of Transportation’s snow-and-ice teams will be prepared and out in force, but the public needs to be ready for conditions to change quickly and worsen if they are out on the roads,” said Illinois Transportation Secretary Omer Osman. “As always during periods of extreme weather, the safest option is to postpone any unnecessary trips and stay home. If you must travel, prepare for very slow and potentially hazardous conditions. And please slow down around our plows and other emergency vehicles, giving them plenty of room to do their jobs.”

The National Weather Service is predicting a wintry mix of precipitation to start with thunderstorms and heavy rain in much of the state this evening, converting to freezing rain overnight before turning to snow Thursday morning. In addition to localized flooding, ice and sleet accumulations are likely, creating extremely slippery surfaces and slick conditions.

Due to the rainy conditions ahead of temperatures falling overnight, the effectiveness of pretreating and salting surfaces in advance of significant snowfall will be limited. The public should anticipate icy conditions even when roads appear clear and greatly reduce speeds. 

“As the Illinois State Police plans to take on the unpredictable Illinois weather, we would like to remind motorists to do their part in keeping the roads a safe place,” said Illinois State Police Director Brendan F. Kelly.  “ISP, alongside IDOT and other agencies, will be working in hazardous weather conditions. Please remember to slow down, stay vigilant and move over for ANY vehicle on the side of the road.”

Statewide, IDOT has available more than 1,800 trucks and equipment to plow, treat roads and respond to weather emergencies. If you encounter a plow or any maintenance vehicle during your travels, please slow down, increase your following distance and remain patient. Do not attempt to pass – conditions in front of the plow will be worse than behind it.

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Police investigating death of Bunker Hill woman

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Police are investigating the death of a Bunker Hill woman who was found dead at the end of her driveway near the roadway on Monday morning, January 31.

Nancy Blycker, 91, had multiple injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene, according to police. The Macoupin County Sheriff’s Office received a 911 call to the 2900 block of Wood Hill Lane around 7:40 a.m. on Monday.

The initial suspicion was homicide, according to a release by the Major Case Squad of Greater St. Louis who said approximately 20 investigators were working the investigation, but the autopsy contradicted that suspicion.

The Major Case Squad said on Tuesday it is “highly unlikely” Blycker’s death was the “result of homicidal means.”

The Major Case Squad turned the case back over to the Macoupin County Sheriff’s Department. The official cause of death is pending further lab analysis.

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Winter storm warning issued for BenGil area

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The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Storm Warning for the BenGil area, southwestern Illinois, and the St. Louis area.

The warning was issued early Tuesday taking effect at midnight tonight until noon on Thursday, February 3 calling for a “wet, heavy” snow. The forecast also calls for ice prompting a warning about possible power outages.

“All indications continue to point to a disruptive, impactful, and dangerous winter storm impacting the region starting late tonight and lasting through Thursday night,” the National Weather Service said in its Area Forecast Discussion.

The BenGil area is expected to receive heavy mixed precipitation including snow accumulations between 6 and 10 inches, sleet accumulations around three-quarters of an inch, and ice accumulations around two-tenths of an inch. Wind gusts will be as high as 35 mph on Thursday.

The storm is expected to start with rain most of the day today before transitioning into a mixture of freezing rain and/or sleet Tuesday night, then all snow Wednesday morning or as late as Wednesday afternoon continuing until about noon on Thursday.

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