CHICAGO
03/01/2012 02:24 pm ET

Harrisburg, Illinois Tornado: Residents Begin To Pick Up Pieces After Disaster (VIDEO, PHOTOS)

As residents in downstate Harrisburg, Ill., continue to recover from the tornado that devastated their town and killed at least six people early Wednesday, residents were allowed to return to their badly damaged community Thursday to see what remained of their homes.

The New York Times reports that Harrisburg, a town of about 9,000, was home to some of the worst devastation associated with the Wednesday storm system --including at least 16 tornadoes -- that killed at least 12 people in three states.

Crews worked Thursday to clear splintered plywood and destroyed appliances from the wreckage, the Associated Press reports.

The storm has been designated an EF4 tornado -- the second-highest rating possible, as winds registered at a rate of over 170 miles per hour, Fox Chicago reports. Up to 300 homes and 35 businesses were reportedly destroyed in the storm.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn visited the area, and said financial assistance will be offered by the state to help area residents rebuild.

"It's devastating," Quinn said. "Homes have been totally destroyed, we see the commercial damage behind me -- obliterated."

Harrisburg Mayor Eric Gregg issued a statement extending "a grateful thank you to all the wonderful people who have called, faxed or emailed their words of comfort and concern. They are truly appreciated."

While local skies are sunny in Harrisburg on Thursday, the vicinity remains "right in the bull's eye" for a second string of storms expected to roll through the Midwest and South early Friday.

Ryan Jewell, a meteorologist with the Storm Prediction Center, told the Associated Press that the upcoming system holds the potential for even more damage than the Wednesday storms.

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