A recent blog post by the Illinois Department of Transportation detailed how District 7 agency staff rallied together in late March to help the small rural town of Robinson in Crawford County clean up and recover from a deadly tornado.
[Above photo by Illinois DOT]
When Josh Galloway, operations supervisor for District 7 in Effingham, got the call around 9 p.m. Friday, March 31, little did he know that his life would be consumed for the next week with local officials and IDOT staff as they coordinated the cleanup of Robinson, a small rural community in Crawford County hit by a deadly tornado.
In its wake, the tornado had left debris from destroyed houses and barns. Utility poles were down and scattered across Illinois state routes 1 and 33.
Galloway quickly contacted all highway maintainers from the Robinson maintenance yard and requested additional help from the Newton yard to begin closure of those two state routes. Fortunately, the tornado missed hitting the Robinson yard, and workers were able to retrieve needed equipment.
By teaming up with the Illinois State Police and local first responders and public works staff, Illinois DOT staff was able to not only close the state highways but also barricade unsafe county roads.
In the meantime, an incident command center was opened at the Robinson Community Center – allowing Galloway to get real-time information and relay it to his team, while getting search and rescue teams deployed before midnight on March 31 only a few hours following the tornado strike.
“A shout out to the local emergency response people,” he said. “Being in the command center for the first several hours, there was a lot of knowledge in the room, and they were able to get boots on the ground.”
Following search and rescue efforts, Galloway and Operations Field Engineer Doug Rudolphi, who arrived at the scene around 1:30 a.m. on April 1, began discussing road closures, detour routes and personnel assignments.
It was apparent that Illinois 1 would need to be closed several days for debris removal and cleanup, so at around 6:00 a.m. on April 1, District 7 Sign Shop Supervisor Phil Boyer called in his employees to start creating detour signs. Within a few hours, the road closure and advance warning signs were installed.
Next step: utility poles. Crews from Ameren arrived to clear the roads of utility poles and re-establish power, with Illinois DOT crews helping with traffic control during this time so Ameren crews could safely perform their pole removal work. Illinois 1 reopened in the early morning hours of April 4.
After receiving a request from Crawford County for help with debris removal, Illinois DOT began clearing away roadside rubble on April 7, precipitating another road closure for a few more days to give crews safer and more efficient access.
Illinois DOT highway maintainers from other yards came to Robinson to assist, with at one point, some 20 workers, three track hoes and up to 12 trucks working to remove about 150 loads of debris from the Illinois 1 right-of-way.
Illinois DOT noted that, for many of its employees from the Robinson maintenance yard, securing the safety of the roads, cleaning up the area and making sure the community was safe following the tornado strike wasn’t just a job – it reflected a personal commitment to help their community get back on its feet.