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After tornado damages Chester, residents pitch in to help one another

  • The Billy Buening Horse Barn on Palestine Road received major roof damage during the Chester tornado Oct. 24. Trees have been removed from the location and Buening now has access to his property.

    The Billy Buening Horse Barn on Palestine Road received major roof damage during the Chester tornado Oct. 24. Trees have been removed from the location and Buening now has access to his property.
    Jim Beers Photo

  • A 12-foot trailer rests in what is left of an outdoor storage shed at 711 Palestine Road, the property of Jim and Vicky Beers. The shed is demolished and the trailer is presently still covered by numerous fallen trees and pieces of the shed. The shed and an entire line of 38 trees was in the direct path of the twister that struck Chester Oct. 24.

    A 12-foot trailer rests in what is left of an outdoor storage shed at 711 Palestine Road, the property of Jim and Vicky Beers. The shed is demolished and the trailer is presently still covered by numerous fallen trees and pieces of the shed. The shed and an entire line of 38 trees was in the direct path of the twister that struck Chester Oct. 24.
    Jim Beers Photo

  • This is the entrance to the trailer park in Chester near Trails End Road. Most trees and major debris have been removed, access to the roadways has been achieved and most trailers have had roofs tarped to protect the interiors of the mobile homes.

    This is the entrance to the trailer park in Chester near Trails End Road. Most trees and major debris have been removed, access to the roadways has been achieved and most trailers have had roofs tarped to protect the interiors of the mobile homes.
    Jim Beers Photo

  • This house at the corner of Palestine Road and 3-Springs Road was in the direct path of the tornado that struck Chester Oct. 24. Workers have removed most downed trees from the property and restored access to 3-Springs Road. Tarps have been placed on the roof to protect the interior of the home. Some outbuildings were damaged or destroyed.

    This house at the corner of Palestine Road and 3-Springs Road was in the direct path of the tornado that struck Chester Oct. 24. Workers have removed most downed trees from the property and restored access to 3-Springs Road. Tarps have been placed on the roof to protect the interior of the home. Some outbuildings were damaged or destroyed.
    Jim Beers Photo

 
BY JIM BEERS
Contributing Writer
updated: 11/3/2021 4:38 PM

Neighbors and city crews are pitching in to help the residents of Chester recover from the category EF3 tornado that struck town in the late evening of Sunday, Oct. 24.

According to Mayor Tom Page, a focused team effort helped keep citizens safe, and that same team effort is helping the community make a smooth and quick recovery.

"Once it hit, our city employees went to work immediately to help those in need," Page said. "Everyone came together to get the community stabilized. Due to trees and power lines down all over town and on Route 150 it was difficult for help to reach us from some directions. Once it was determined safe enough, our city workers began going out to assess the damage and begin helping those in need."

According to Emergency Management Coordinator Charlie Bargman II, the tornado came across the Mississippi River from St. Mary's, Missouri, went past the Menard Correctional Center, by the Pechacek Funeral home, hit the Kipp and Ace Hardware properties, up Lindy and Brenda Streets, by Trails End at the trailer court, through the woods, by the Beers and Mueller Brothers' property, past the Buening Horse Barn, past Dawn View Road down 3-Springs Road, and the Three Springs Nursing Home, by Union School Road and through the woods to Route 150 and eventually to Bremen.

The tornado moved to the northeast corner of Bremen, crossing Route 150 where trees, a home and several outbuildings were severely damaged. Authorities say it dissipated 1.6 miles northeast of Bremen, just west of Route 150.

The tornado had peak wind speeds of 150 mph and its path was 42.4 miles, with a maximum width of 450 yards.

"Along the path of destruction there was all sorts of debris falling from the sky, some from as high as 20,000 feet carried by the tornado. At one point a man found three old farm books dating back to 1954 that came from a place in Jackson, Missouri," Bargman said.

"We were very lucky once we began the task of surveying the city to determine the damage," said Chester Fire Chief Marty Bert. "Two of our early concerns were the Three Springs Nursing Home, where part of the roof was damaged, and on Trails End at the trailer court where there was a lot of damage.

"To be truthful, I was initially afraid that we would be trying to locate bodies after the first reports of the wide span of damage at that location. Fortunately there were no major injuries or deaths as a result of the devastation," Bert said.

According to Bert, the Chester Fire Department received assistance from most Randolph County fire departments, including Sparta, Steeleville, Ellis Grove, Evansville, Prairie Du Rocher, Tilden, and Red Bud.

Ameren Illinois Power Company personnel worked for the next three days to restore power to the community. By mid-to-late week most TV, cable and internet had been restored.

By 7 a.m. the morning after the storm, work crews were out in force to begin the recovery efforts. Numerous individuals volunteered with chain saws to help remove the hundreds of trees on roadways and properties all over town.

"Neighbors were helping neighbors and emergency disaster personnel were active determining what needed to be done," Page said. The Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Team from Anna Jonesboro worked diligently at the Brenda Street and Trails End location to help clear trees and debris, while the Lutheran Disaster Relief Team from Murphysboro worked at the homes of 100-year old Bob Mueller and 95-year old Ray Mueller to clear their properties.

By late week, most damage had been assessed and efforts were underway to get repairs started.

The Illinois Emergency Management Agency was on hand to lend support, as was the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Red Cross.

However, Bargman said the IEMA determined Chester does not meet the standards to qualify for state and federal assistance. "Victims of the storm will have to rely on insurance coverage and personal assistance to fully recover from this disaster," he said.