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Edwardsville chief on Amazon warehouse: ‘It was definitely one of our worst days’

In the wake of Friday night storms that left six dead at an Amazon warehouse in Edwardsville, a disaster proclamation was issued Monday for 28 counties in southern and central Illinois. The proclamation will bring personnel or equipment from the Illinois Emergency Management Agency to assist with storm recovery.

“My administration is committed to standing with Edwardsville and all of the surrounding communities affected in every aspect of the immediate recovery, as well as on the road to rebuilding,” said Gov. JB Pritzker, who issued the proclamation. “Yesterday, I authorized a state disaster proclamation for Madison County, as well as all storm-impacted counties, to facilitate recovery efforts, as well as the pursuit of additional federal resources. We are working directly with the White House and FEMA to ensure access to all federal resources for this community. And, as local entities work to secure federal reimbursements and recovery dollars, we will assist every step of the way.”

The National Weather Service issued a preliminary report that an EF3 tornado struck the Edwardsville area, downing trees, interrupting power service and ripping the roof of an Amazon warehouse, killing six and causing multiple injuries.  Tornadoes were also confirmed in Cass, Menard, Bond, Shelby and Coles counties.

The counties included in the disaster declaration include Bond, Cass, Champaign, Coles, Edgar, Effingham, Fayette, Ford, Greene, Grundy, Iroquois, Jackson, Jersey, Kankakee, Lawrence, Livingston, Logan, Macon, Macoupin, Madison, Montgomery, Morgan, Moultrie, Pike, Sangamon, Shelby, Tazewell and Woodford.

Pritzker was back at the site of the 593,000-square-foot warehouse on Monday morning with Rep. Amy Elik, R-Fosterburg, and Rep. Katie Stuart, D-Edwardsville, to announce the disaster proclamation.

“As our community looks ahead following the devastating storms that hit our region last weekend, now is a time for us to come together to support each other and heal,” Stuart said. “I want to thank Governor Pritzker for deploying resources to our region to help those who were directly impacted by the storms recover.”

“The disaster proclamation will provide our region additional resources and funding needed to help our community recover following Friday night’s storm.” Elik said. “I appreciate everything our first responders and volunteers have and continue to do to help the region recover.”

Madison County Board Chairman Kurt Prenzler said the storm was erratic and devastating.

The warehouses to the north and west of the Amazon warehouse were not disturbed. Frogs from a nearby retention pond were picked up by the tornado and slammed to the pavement, Prenzler said. The tornado cut through the south side of the building. All of the fatalities were in the south side of building, Edwardsville Police Chief Mike Fillback said. The north side of the warehouse was not damaged.

Prenzler met Monday morning with Amazon managers who told him the storm hit as at one of the busiest times of the year as orders are readied for Christmas deliveries. When the storm hit around 8:30 on Friday night, trucks were returning, making accounting for the number inside the warehouse difficult, Prenzler said.

Emergency crews arrived quickly and survivors were removed by bus or car. Some were taken to Pontoon Beach City Hall, where grief counselors were on hand.

“This was a terrible and random storm,” Prenzler said. “We are still in shock by it all.”

Fillback said it was sobering.

As the emergency crews worked through Friday night to try to find and extract survivors, they were hit again by a second storm about 3 a.m. on Saturday, Fillback said.

“It was definitely one of our worst days,” he said. “Hopefully, we don’t have another like this that requires this level of response again.”

Prenzler said he intended to sign the disaster proclamation on Monday afternoon.

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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