ASHMORE — High winds Tuesday evening caused widespread power outages in Ashmore and in Westfield, where Ameren Illinois crews were working into Wednesday evening to restore electrical service.
The winds also caused property damage throughout much of the Ashmore area, including tearing part of the showroom roof off of the AHW John Deere dealership and blowing the roof off of the Ashmore Estates haunted house site.
Director Dan Ensign of the Coles County Emergency Management Agency said the damage appears to have been caused by straight-line winds, which he estimated blew at 80 to 100 mph. He said winds toppled more than four dozen utility poles that are part of an Ashmore area transmission line that also serves Westfield.
The power outage caused the Ashmore Elementary School, as well as several businesses in Ashmore and Westfield, to close for Wednesday. Charleston school district Superintendent Jim Littleford sent out a mass email message early Wednesday evening stating that the district has made plans for school to be in session today at Ashmore.
“If power has not been restored to the Ashmore community by (the) morning, arrangements have been made to transport Ashmore Elementary School students and staff to Jefferson Elementary School. Please have students report to Ashmore Elementary School at their regular time. All buses will be running normal routes,” Littleford said.
Ashmore Mayor Kurt Crail, who also is assistant fire chief, said no injuries or fires were reported to have been caused by the storm in the village. Crail said Ameren forecasted that the power would be restored by 7 p.m. Wednesday in Ashmore.
He said a generator was turned on Wednesday night at Ashmore Baptist Church in case the outage lasted longer than expected and residents needed a warm place to gather.
Westfield Water Superintendent Dick Wheeler said the generator and warm interior of the Westfield fire station were available Wednesday in case residents needed a place to escape from the cold during the power outage. Wheeler said the outage led to the Westfield United Methodist Church canceling its after-school program Wednesday.
Ensign said high winds caused relatively minor damage to residences in Ashmore, other than the back deck of a house north of town being destroyed by a wind-blown corn bin. He said winds also toppled three small silos at the grain elevator in Ashmore, damaged the roof on an Ashmore Township building, and damaged a Frito-Lay storage building.
Josh Long, store manager for the AHW John Deere dealership in Ashmore, said the high winds took part of the roof off of the showroom, exposing the room to water damage and blowing the roof into the wall of a nearby workshop. He said one of the other workshops lost its garage door, which was blown into nearby lawn tractors and equipment.
“Our damage is pretty extensive,” Long said. He said the Ashmore dealership closed for the day Wednesday and routed customers to other AHW dealerships in the region.
Ensign said the high winds blew the new metal roof off of Ashmore Estates and destroyed the brick support gables, leaving the upper level of the building exposed to the elements. Ensign said it appeared to him that the building may be damaged beyond repair. He said the winds left the adjacent home of owners Scott and Tanya Kelley relatively untouched but flipped over their camping trailer.
Ashmore Estates was constructed in 1916 as the county poor farm and later housed developmentally disabled individuals before closing in 1987. The building sat empty for several years in a state of decay and became a popular destination for trespassers looking for a creepy late-night adventure.
Since purchasing Ashmore Estates in 2006, Scott and Tanya Kelley have shored up the structure. They have operated a haunted house there during the Halloween season.
Contact Stroud at email@example.com or 217-238-6861.