Governor Pat Quinn declared seven counties state disaster areas on Monday, after severe storms spawned tornadoes and high winds across Illinois on Sunday.
Hundreds of homes and businesses have been damaged or destroyed, leaving thousands without power. Numerous roads throughout the state have been closed by fallen trees and downed power lines. At least six people are reported dead and dozens more injured.
Governor Quinn will inspect damage on the ground in some of Illinois' hardest hit communities including Washington, Diamond, Gifford, Brookport and New Minden.
“Yesterday Illinois was hit extremely hard by deadly tornadoes that left many in a great deal of pain and loss,” Governor Quinn said.
“Although we are still receiving reports of massive damage to communities across our state, we want to make sure people are getting the assistance and resources they need as quickly as possible. As we pray for the families of those who have lost their lives and others who are injured, the state of Illinois will do everything necessary to help these communities recover."
The state disaster declaration makes available a wide variety of state resources that can help affected communities respond and recover from the storms.
The state has dispatched technical rescue teams to a number of locations to provide emergency generators, light towers and communications systems. More information about the state’s flood response and flood safety is available on the Ready Illinois website at www.Ready.Illinois.gov.
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has taken a new, more left-leaning approach in his second term.
Nixon has long been a Democrat. But he could have passed himself off as a moderate Republican during his first four years as governor. He cut taxes, spending and thousands of government jobs. And Nixon shied far away from President Barack Obama's signature health care law.
Since he won re-election a year ago, however, Nixon has sought to expand Missouri's Medicaid eligibility under Obama's health care law. He vetoed a big income tax cut and numerous other bills passed by the Republican-led Legislature. And this past week, Nixon came out in support of gay marriage.
Some political scientists say Nixon appears to be re-positioning himself to appeal to national Democrats.
A Pennsylvania pastor charged under United Methodist law with officiating his son's same-sex marriage is scheduled to go on trial.
The Rev. Frank Schaefer, 51, could be defrocked if a jury comprised of fellow Methodist clergy convicts him of breaking his pastoral vows by officiating the 2007 ceremony in Massachusetts. Schaefer's supporters argue that church teaching on homosexuality is outmoded.
"Public opinion has changed very rapidly," said the pastor's son, Tim Schaefer, 29. "I hope this leads to a renewed conversation to revisit these policies to see if they are a little archaic."
The nation's largest mainline Protestant denomination accepts gay and lesbian members, but rejects the practice of homosexuality as "incompatible with Christian teaching." Clergy who perform same-sex unions risk punishment ranging from a reprimand to suspension to losing their minister's credentials.
The issue has split the church. Hundreds of Methodist ministers have publicly rejected church doctrine on homosexuality, and some of them face discipline for presiding over same-gender unions.
Critics say those pastors are sowing division within the church and ignoring the church's democratic decision-making process. Indeed, the denomination's top legislative body, the 1,000-member General Conference, reaffirmed the church's 40-year-old policy on gays at its last worldwide meeting in 2012.
The Methodists have set aside three days for Schaefer's trial, to be held at a church retreat in Spring City, Pa., beginning on Monday.
Tim Schaefer, of Hull, Mass., will testify on his father's behalf.
"(The defense wants) to highlight how hurtful the policy of the church is toward the LGBT community," he said.
Tim Schaefer struggled as a teenager, aware of Methodist doctrine on homosexuality. He said he prayed every night that "God would make me normal, take this away from me." He contemplated suicide but knew it would devastate his family. Schaefer finally told his parents at age 17, and he said they accepted him completely.
Years later, Schaefer knew he wanted his dad to perform his wedding ceremony.
"I remember thinking I have two choices: I can ask my dad and know I am putting him in a position ... where he would risk his career, or I could not ask my dad and really risk hurting his feelings. I think he would have been devastated if I hadn't asked him," he said.
Frank Schaefer has said he informed his superiors in the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference that he planned to officiate his son's wedding, and again after the ceremony, which took place at a restaurant near Boston. He said he faced no discipline until April — about a month before the church's six-year statute of limitations was set to expire — when one of his congregants filed a complaint.
Schaefer could have avoided a trial if he had agreed to never again perform a same-gender wedding, but he declined because three of his four children are gay.
A Methodist trial resembles a secular trial in many ways, with counsel representing each side, a judge and jury, opening statements and closing arguments, and testimony and evidence.
The 13 member jury, called a "trial court," will be selected from a pool of 35. It takes at least nine votes to convict. If Schaefer is convicted, the trial moves to a penalty phase, with the same jury settling on a punishment. At least seven members of the jury must agree on the penalty.
Schaefer can appeal a conviction, but neither the church nor the person who brought the charge may appeal an acquittal.
Storms that swept across the Midwest left at least six people dead and unleashed powerful winds that flattened neighborhoods, flipped over cars and uprooted trees.
The National Weather Service has confirmed preliminary EF-4 tornado damage about 50 miles east of St. Louis near New Minden, Illinois -- where two people were killed.
Washington, a town of 16,000 about 170 miles north of St. Louis, appeared to have the most severe damage. State Trooper Dustin Pierce says the tornado there cut a path about an eighth of a mile wide from one side of town to the other. Entire blocks of Washington were leveled. One person was killed. The National Guard has been called in to police the damaged neighborhoods.
Three others died in Massac County in far southern Illinois.
It wasn't tornadoes, but straight line winds that brought down trees and power lines on the Missouri side of the St. Louis metro area.
Two empty buildings reportedly toppled in the City of St. Louis.
In Wentzville, Heritage Primary Elementary school will open Monday, despite having parts of its roof blown off. The students will reportedly be moved to different classrooms.
The wind is being blamed for several interstate accidents, including one involving an overturned semi that closed the Poplar Street Bridge for several hours and an eight-car pile up along the I-70 depressed section downtown.
Crews are still working to clear downed trees, power lines and other debris from some St. Louis area roads. Drivers are urged to use caution this morning as traffic signals remain out at some intersections and some streets may still be littered with debris.
The power is still out for many in the St. Louis area as well. At the height of the storm, Ameren was reporting more than 50,000 metro-area customers were affected. Ameren opened an emergency operations center Sunday afternoon and crews have been working all day to restore power.
At 3:00 a.m, more than 6,700 Ameren Missouri customers and just over 2,500 metro-east customers were still in the dark.