Rate the damage!

What was this tornado's intensity?

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Dan Cook

Dec 12, 2003
Lombard, IL
I see what I'd call F3. There has been some movement (tumbling) of vehicles. I see no evidence of F4 in the damage to structures though. Definitely a stout tornado however ....one that'd ruin your day.

Because I can't see any foundations in the photos its hard to rate the damage to structures. The damage to trees is consistent with F2-F3 in most of the images. If the vehicle in the last image was transported as a missle I would go with F4. I'll stick with F3 because I don't know if the vehicle rolled to that spot or landed in that spot.

Scott Currens
F3 here...
I'd give the two story brick house strong F1, maybe F2...second story just slid right off. Rest of it, F3 for sure. Rather substantial vehicles looked like they had traveled a distance and encoutered some resistance along the way. Twisted transformers...saw some of those around here with a little F3 about 11 years ago. No standing walls with the one house...would be hard to assess without seeing the actual structure and anchoring mechanisms, but the other local houses looked well constructed.
Cool stuff, guys...anybody got more?

I sat and debated over whether to go with F3 or F4 for several minutes. Everythig seems to suggest a formidable F3, but that van in the field is bothering me. Scott brought up an interesting decision point: did it roll or land there???

I tried to figure which, and I'm leaning towards land because of the extent of the damage. A tornado doesn't carry along objects that it doesn't lift and sustain airborne, it tosses them. This van could've easily been rolled along, but it wouldn't roll too long. The damage is extensive, like it was rolled along then picked up, while being showered with smaller debris (note the dents are everywhere on the van, sides, top, front, back).

Another thing (and the main thing) is there isn't a house anywhere in the picture. Grantd, the van could've been rolled off a nearby road hat might not be in the photo, but judging from the houses in the background, this van was parked at a rural residence near the field (or not).

I've only had one experience with F3 vehicle damage, and the car we saw had ben rolled about 40 yards from the road it had ben on (interstate 40 near Shamrock, TX). Not knowing which direction the car was heading when it was taken, it ould've ben tossed twice that distance. But in either case, the prmximiy was fairly close to the original starting point of the vehicle.

I guess my question is - was the van taken from a nearby road or not? If that's just a field and the van came from a house, I'd say F4. Besides, I'd venture a guess hat a stout F3 would have at least a few vortices (short-lived but violent) reaching F4 status briefly....perhaps one of these were responsible for the van.
I know exactly what event this is. I chased the tornado then did a damage survey in the following days. I do have stuff to add, but will wait until the rating is announced.
Here's the answer:


long track tornado was found in Tazewell County. This tornado touched down initially 3 miles southwest of South Pekin around 9:45 PM. (A tornado warning for Tazewell County had been in effect since 9:15 PM). It was initially of F0 intensity (winds less than 73 mph) and was about 50 yards wide. The tornado moved northeast, and strengthened rapidly to F2 intensity about 2 miles southwest of South Pekin, as it crossed Highway 29. It continued to strengthen, and was at F3 intensity (estimated winds of 200 mph) as it went through South Pekin at 9:50 PM. At this point, the tornado was a quarter mile wide. It remained F3 intensity for about 2.5 miles, although the width decreased to 200 yards. There were 23 injuries reported in South Pekin.

The tornado continued on the ground at F2 intensity to a point about 1.5 miles northeast of Groveland, gradually becoming smaller and only 100 yards wide. West of Morton, the tornado weakened to F1 intensity and was only 50 yards wide. The tornado then turned more to the north-northeast, and crossed I-74 at the I-155 intersection around 10:05 PM. Just beyond this intersection on the northwest side of Morton, the tornado quickly strengthened back to F2 intensity and severely damaged a concrete plant and the Cape Cod Apartment complex. After exiting the complex, the tornado gradually weakened back to F1 strength and dissipated on the far northern edge of Morton. There were 8 injuries in Morton, including in a vehicle on I-74.

This tornado was on the ground for 19 miles, and reached a maximum intensity of F3 (200 mph), with a maximum width of 1/4 mile in the city of South Pekin.

A second tornado then developed in Tazewell County 3 miles north of Morton, around 10:16 PM. It was on the ground for 1 mile, and lifted and dissipated 4 miles north northeast of Morton. It was rated F1 (100 mph) and was 100 yards wide.

Part of the May 10, 2003 Illinois outbreak.