Democracy on the Front Lines
City Administrator’s Blog
April 3, 2006
It is amazing how a storm of such short duration can cause such significant damage. Last night’s storm was relatively uneventful for most O’Fallon residents, but there were a few isolated areas that received extensive damage. Before, during, and after the storm there is a lot of activity by City employees behind the scenes, from Police to Fire to EMS to Public Works. They did a magnificent job in responding to the emergency.
The major portion of the storm cell moved through O’Fallon at approximately 5:20 p.m. and the strongest winds lasted for less than five minutes. The most severe damage appears to have occurred along a line running northeast from the area of the Savannah Hills subdivision along Old Collinsville Rd to the Wiel Rd. area on the northern edge of the City. Several residences and outbuildings along Milburn School Rd received heavy damage as did a residence in the Windermere Ridge subdivision. From there, the damage along the path appears to be more superficial until you get to Nolin Creek and Crown Pointe, where there are a number of homes that were damaged extensively. In addition, some of the mobile homes in Rock Springs Estates were damaged. The good news is that we did not experience any significant injuries (no one was transported to the
hospital by our EMS). However, we still have officers posted at Rock Springs Estates and Crown Pointe to provide security.
By about 5:45 p.m., we activated the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) at the Public Safety Facility to monitor the activities on the street. The EOC is where the directors from affected departments get together in one room to coordinate activities and direct emergency response. In this case, the EOC consisted of Police Chief John Betten, Fire Chief Brent Saunders, and Engineering and Public Works Director Dennis Sullivan. Assistant City Administrator Pam Funk also was there to coordinate media inquiries. With all of the department heads in the same place, we can keep track of radio traffic and efficiently mobilize employees to areas of need.
By 8:30 p.m., the Police had responded to 44 calls for service, the Fire Department 29, and EMS 21, respectively. In addition, the streets and sewer divisions were busy dealing with debris and sewer lift station power outage issues. The Red Cross was at the Public Safety Facility until about 9:30 assisting several Rock Springs residents who had come to our Community Room. After the all-clear was given for their neighborhood, they returned home and no additional Red Cross services were necessary.
In addition to emergency responders, we have had our building inspectors driving around town conducting assessments on the various damaged houses in town. It appears that Crown Pointe suffered the most significant amount of damage, primarily to garages, roofs, decks, and siding. One home, however, had the second story ripped off. There were a several damaged homes in Windermere and Nolin Creek as well. The new Milburn Estates subdivision had exterior damage to their model units, along with one under framing being demolished and their sales trailer upended. There is also scattered damage in the rural areas around the city, particularly along Milburn School Road and Weil Road. There is a lot of debris at Rock Springs trailer park, with many of the units losing their skirting and a few having structural damage to their roofs. All in all, there
is a lot of debris around with specific units suffering structural damage, but it could have been much worse.
While we experienced damage, Fairview Heights is far worse. O’Fallon Police, Fire and EMS provided mutual aid to Fairview Heights where the storm caused severe damage in a number of locations and we continue to provide police officers to Fairview Heights (4 around-the-clock at this point). There was one fatality and several injuries reported in Fairview Heights, and they are still experiencing widespread power outages and may be without power for some time to come.
We have had various reports that funnel clouds were spotted in the area and a tornado may have been the major cause of the damage. We are not in a position to confirm that but the nature and extent of the damage speaks for itself. We have also taken some calls about the activation of the storm sirens. There are conflicting reports about specific sirens not being activated (some residents say they sounded and others say they did not). We activated the sirens when we were properly notified and the system did sound. We will be researching the timing of the activation and tomorrow’s system-wide test will help us determine if the sirens are operational. Obviously, we will work to insure that we handled this critical function properly.
As always, we learned a few lessons responding to the event and we will work to improve our emergency operations in the future. All systems functioned as designed and the response of off-duty personnel in all departments was excellent.
One of the more poignant moments for me came after the storm when the weather cleared. Everyone on my block was outside walking around their houses and surveying storm damage and picking up debris. We all took time to ask each other if they were okay and if they needed any help. That speaks to O’Fallon’s strong sense of community.