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Small Southern Illinois Town Recovering From Deadly Tornado, But More Severe Weather On The Way

By Samantha Abernethy in News on Mar 1, 2012 9:20PM

Residents of Harrisburg in southern Illinois are sifting through the rubble left by the tornado that tore through in the early morning hours Wednesday, killing at least six and injuring at least 100 people. Saline County Sheriff Keith Brown says 15 to 20 percent of residents in this 9,000-person town have been "very impacted" by the EF4 tornado (on a scale of 1 to 5).

But now it looks like more severe weather could be on the way for many of the towns struck across the Midwest. Another string of storms is expected to come through after midnight Thursday and linger into the morning. Then another system is expected Friday afternoon. The Tribune writes:

Ryan Jewell, a meteorologist with the Storm Prediction Center, said the next system is forecast to take a similar path as Wednesday's storms that hit Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, southern Illinois and Kentucky -- and has the potential for even more damage.

Five of the six people killed in Harrisburg had lived on the same street, where the four houses were blown off their foundations. One resident told NBC he "heard a crackling sound, a big light and then a big explosion." Another told the Tribune, "It sounded like a freight train was getting ready to come through my bedroom windows."

The Red Cross is mobilizing in Harrisburg to provide food, water and care. Gov. Pat Quinn declared a state of emergency and said President Barack Obama called to check in. “I have met with local community leaders and first responders, and they know the state of Illinois is here to help as they recover from this disaster,” Gov. Quinn wrote in a release Wednesday.

Crews continue to sift through the rubble and more survivors have been found buried beneath. Harrisburg Mayor Eric Gregg said the devastation is heartbreaking. The Tribune writes:

"This is something you never want to see happen in your community. We watched it happen to Joplin, Mo., last year," Gregg said. "Several of our people went there to help, and today we find ourselves in need. So, I'm very grateful and appreciative of all the support we've been getting."

So far 13 people have been confirmed dead across the Midwest and South from the Leap Day storms that packed at least 16 tornadoes. One person was killed in a trailer park in Buffalo in southern Missouri. Two died in Cassville and Puxico, Mo.

Three people were killed in eastern Tennessee. Harveyville, Kan. suffered no fatalities, but much of the town is in shambles after being whipped by winds 120 to 130 mph. Tourist destination Branson, Mo., mostly dodged a bullet. While there were no fatalities, some of the theaters were damaged, and if it had been just a bit later they would've been packed at the height of their tourist season.

CNN's Soledad O'Brien visited Harrisburg to interview some of the survivors. Watch that video below.