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Residents prepare for Utica tornado anniversary

Published: Monday, April 21, 2014 1:38 p.m. CST

UTICA — Residents in north-central Illinois on Monday were marking the 10th anniversary of a devastating tornado by honoring the eight people killed in the storm.

The powerful storm swept through the village of Utica on April 20, 2004, caving in the century-old sandstone walls of the Milestone Tap restaurant and tavern. Eight people were found dead in the wreckage the following day, while nine others were found alive in the rubble.

The tornado — which had winds that reached up to 205 mph — was one of 16 twisters that hit Illinois, according to the National Weather Service. Nearly 30 twisters were reported across Illinois, Iowa and Indiana.

Village residents plan to sign a memorial book, called "Reflection of a Twister Tragedy," on Monday at Utica Village Hall. The community also plans to hold a memorial service Monday evening.

"It's kind of bittersweet," said Tom Brown, a former Utica firefighter who was one of the first responders after the tornado hit.

"It's been awesome great to see how the town progressed and the improvements that have come up," he said. "You've got to be proud of the whole town the way it's come back after that kind of loss."

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