Galesburg Fire Chief Tom Simkins Issues Detailed Report from Cameron

Simkins_TomSometime around 7:30 last evening, I made the decision, as EMA Coordinator, to set the storm warning sirens off in Galesburg.  We had received a report from Monmouth Firefighters of a tornado touchdown south of Monmouth and moving east.  About 10 minutes or so later, a large tornado on the ground was reported by Warren County Sheriffs and firefighters near Cameron.  At that time, I was on the phone with the NWS meteorologists in Lincoln confirming the tornado had slowed its easterly trek to about 25 miles per hour.  

Also, at about this time, another tornado was being reported near the Roseville and Berwick area.  The Galesburg sirens were sounded.   No significant damage has been reported in Galesburg other than  a large amount of temporary flooding in several low-lying roadways of the city.  Galesburg firefighters handled about a dozen calls during the evening including car, tree, and wire fires as well as stalled vehicles.

Cameron was hit hard by the tornado with many of the 50 or so homes sustaining various levels of damage.  At this time, there has been only 1 reported injury of apparent minor severity.  The emergency response was slightly delayed due to the presence of the two tornado systems still moving through the area.  Firefighters from several area departments including Cameron, Abingdon, Monmouth, Kirkwood, Woodhull, Alexis, Roseville, Oneida, Stronghurst, and Galesburg.  Also responding were 19 Illinois State Police officers, 8 Sheriff Deputies from Warren and Knox County and three ambulances from Galesburg Hospitals Ambulance Service.

MABAS Light towers were brought in from Macomb, Canton, Farmington, and Galesburg to provide illumination.  The Unified Command Bus was deployed through the Galesburg Police Department.  Technical Rescue Teams from Galesburg and Canton were also on scene.  The Red Cross and Salvation Army were on-scene as well as State Emergency Management Agency personnel.  Ameren crews were called in to cut power and gas to the community.  The BNSF rail line was shut down due to damage to the crossings and BNSF contractors arrived to begin making repairs to have the rail line back in service by morning.

Firefighters and technical rescue teams conducted a primary and secondary search of all the structures in the town. All roads leading into Cameron have been secured and access is being limited to only emergency personnel.  The town was mostly evacuated by 3 a.m.  Using backhoes and end-loaders, Public Works personnel from Floyd Township and Warren County have most of the roadways cleared in the town.

The Red Cross has set up a shelter at the Monmouth Armory and has received approximately 20 residents.  Hotel rooms at the Prairie Inn have been reserved through 1-800 Board-UP for displaced residents. Damage Assessment personnel from the City of Galesburg Community Development Department will begin to assess structural damage in the morning.  A debris removal plan will also be put into action as soon as possible and a fire curtain has been requested from IEMA.

A Joint Information Center is being formed with a representative from the Illinois State Police acting as the lead PIO.

Galesburg GIS analyst Jim Cueno was on scene working in the Command Post through the night to provide situational analysis.  The Galesburg Community Foundation has offered to assist with donations management activities and the Galesburg Fire Department chaplain is offering emotional support at the Armory shelter in Monmouth. Chief Simkins was on scene during the night supporting the Incident Commander, Cameron Fire Chief Roger Watson.

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