ROCK FALLS – Alyssa Valdez and Beau Ebenezer saw a funnel cloud from the balcony of their second-floor apartment in Washington, Ill., late Sunday morning. They had only seconds to prepare.
The Rock Falls High graduates took shelter in their bathtub. They held each other’s hands. Their energetic 9-month-old dog, Valentine, cowered between them.
Then the tornado arrived. The tub shook. Tumbling boards and bricks covered them. A cinderblock struck the back of Beau’s head, causing bleeding.
“I thought it was the end for us,” said Beau, 24, a reporter with a Peoria TV station. “I thought we were going to die.”
A moment later, the twister left. The floor remained, but the ceiling was gone.
“It got super calm,” Alyssa, 22, said during an interview Monday at her parents’ Rock Falls house. “The sky wasn’t as black.”
Not long before that, Beau was still in bed and probably would have slept past noon. He had planned to watch the Bears game later in the day.
Alyssa got up before Beau, and a brewing storm worried her. She received an alert on her cellphone about tornadoes. She always gets anxious about storms, she said.
She woke up her boyfriend, who was unconvinced. But then sirens blared.
“I started to get a little scared,” Beau said. “Everyone was yelling, saying it was here. … If I had stayed in bed, I don’t know where I would have ended up.”
After the tornado hit, Alyssa, who works for the Center for Youth and Family Solutions in Peoria, hurt herself going down the stairs. A nail from a board stuck into her wrist.
They had nothing left. The twister threw Alyssa’s car into a nearby woods, destroying it. Beau’s car was damaged.
As far as they know, no one suffered severe injuries in their complex. One person, though, died in Washington and 50 others were treated in a Peoria hospital.
Alyssa’s family had planned to visit Washington that day. Her parents, Jan and Jaime Valdez, and her sister, Carisa, picked up Beau and Alyssa and took them to Rock Falls.
Beau and Alyssa visited the local hospital, where Beau got four staples for the wound to his head.
They don’t know what their next step will be, though they said their bosses have been understanding.
“We don’t have any clothes,” Beau said. “Luckily, we have our family helping us out. The outpouring of people is amazing.”
Valentine licked a visitor’s hands at the Valdez house Monday.
“Valentine got sick a couple of times today,” Beau said. “We don’t know if it’s a stress thing.”
Soon, Beau and Alyssa will look for a place to live. They’ll want one that accepts dogs.
How to help
You can donate to Washington, Ill., tornado victims by visiting www.redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS, mailing it to the Central Illinois chapter at 311 W. John H. Gwynn Jr. Ave., Peoria, IL 61605, or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.
Kreider Services in Dixon is starting a collection for people who want to donate items to help Washington residents. Items needed include blankets, gloves, coats, personal hygiene items, storage tubs, storage bags, garbage bags, diapers, baby formula, baby food, cleaning supplies, batteries, cameras, cellphone cards, pet food, cat litter, pet crates, gas cards, baby spoons, sippy cups, instant mashed potatoes, instant macaroni and cheese, towels and washcloths.
Collection hours this week will be from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Kreider, 500 Anchor Road in Dixon.
Call Becky Reilly at Kreider Services at 815-288-6691.