Assistant Public Works Director Luke Fisher has never seen anything like it.
“It’s probably the biggest event, the biggest natural disaster we have had,” he said Friday morning.
With dozens of trees, some hundreds of years old, down St. Joseph Public Works worked all night long to clear roads after a storm with 80 mph winds rolled through the area Thursday afternoon.
The destruction is so widespread that Public Works notified the Illinois Public Works Mutual Aid Network that they needed assistance.
“It’s an organization through the state that the village pays into,” Fisher said. “When you have a natural disaster you can send out requests and other villages and towns if they have equipment available will send that.”
The only issue is close towns also got hit.
“Hopefully next week we can get some,” Fisher said. “Right now we are just trying to get stuff cleaned up and at a later date we will discuss how we are going to pick it all up.”
Fisher said the main issue public works is battling on Friday is the fact that some of the town is still without power, including three of the four lift stations for the sanitary service. Public works is taking a generator to each lift station and pumping them. The sewer plant is also running on its own generator. They are also trying to get the bigger trees and limbs cut into smaller pieces.
Help may be on the way.
Fisher said the village had been in contact with Ameren and they are sending crews from Ohio that are expected to be in the area later today.
The parks also suffered damage with tree limbs down at Kolb Park and a light pole snapped off at the ground at the Sports Complex on Diamond 3.
Fisher said that the diamond will be unusable for a while and before the other diamonds can be used the lights need to be tested.
Fisher is asking residents to be patient.
Village Hall currently has no phone or internet so they cannot take calls from residents.
He also asked that residents pile branches by the side of the road. Branches should be no longer than six feet long and four inches in diameter. He said to look for updates on the village website or on the Public Works Facebook page.
St. Joseph resident Amy McElroy said at first she didn’t believe the storm was going to be as bad as predicted.
“It seems the overhypes storms so much that I’ve become a little immune to it,” she said. “But when I saw it coming I thought ‘Oh, this one isn’t going to be good.’”
McElroy was actually caught in her car during the storm.
“I second-guessed staying in my car about 300 times in that first three minutes after it hit,” she said. “ It was absolutely insane.”
Once the worst was over McElroy set about moving branches out of the road.
“I figured Public Works and the Fire Department would have enough to deal with,” she said.
St. Joseph resident Leslie Landreth’s deck, yard, and trees had substantial damage. Landreth is in Florida with the Gallo Dance Company at the National Dance Championships and had to see the damage via photos.
“You feel helpless because you physically can’t fix it,” she said. “Thank goodness for modern-day technology like FaceTime to be able to see what kind of damage there is.”
Landreth said she is relying on friends and family to help until they can return and start the cleanup.
“You make the necessary phone calls to your insurance company and get as many pictures sent to you as possible,” she said. “And you try to stay present in the moment at dance and vacation but feel pressured to get home as soon as possible.”