HPC employees deliver supplies to residents in need after deadly tornadoApril 12, 2023 | HPC Industrial
Following a deadly tornado that touched down in Illinois and Indiana, HPC employees at the Marathon Refinery assisted in recovery efforts by donating supplies to a local community center.
On the evening of Friday, March 31, a severe storm passed through southern Illinois and Indiana, eventually forming into a tornado that took the lives of six people and caused massive destruction throughout the area.
The tornado missed the Marathon Refinery in Robinson, Illinois, by about 1/8 of a mile. More than 40 HPC InSite employees were at the facility or in the area at the time of the storm for the annual turnaround.
Around 9:30 p.m., Marathon Health and Safety Supervisor Addam Prendergast was at his home – just a mile-and-a-half from the refinery – getting ready for bed when he received a tornado alert on his phone. Not long after, it arrived.
“My wife looked out the window and screamed, ‘it’s here!’” he recalled. “The sky was gray and black and there was stuff flying everywhere. My garage is 10 feet from my house and I couldn’t see it.”
Within 10 minutes, the tornado passed, but the damage was done. While his family had hunkered down, Prendergast, who admits he wasn’t sure they’d make it through the storm, went outside to see if anyone needed help as the winds were picking up. He watched as a car got crushed, trees split down the middle and the lights throughout the neighborhood flickered off as everyone lost power.
“It looked like javelins were getting thrown in my yard with the number of trees being pulled and split apart and whipped around,” said Prendergast. “It was weird, there was a house that got completely destroyed, but 5 feet next to it, the homes were fine. It was scary.”
Prendergast and his family, along with everyone in his neighborhood, were OK.
Meanwhile, at Marathon, employees rushed home as evacuation orders were issued. By 3 a.m. on Saturday, Branch Manager Jeremy Brundige was enroute to the facility to ensure everyone had made it back safely and to assess the damage.
As he drove in, Brundige looked in awe at the destruction the tornado left in its wake.
“It looked like a war zone,” he said. “Trees were snapped like toothpicks. Homes were completely ripped off their foundations. Cars mangled. Semi-trucks on top of semi-trucks. The power of that tornado being able to lift a 70,000-pound vehicle like it was nothing is crazy.”
Due to the scope of the turnaround – additional employees had arrived to assist with the work and were staying at a hotel in Indiana, about 30 minutes from the plant. Marathon had lost power, and phone lines were down in Indiana, so communication with employees was delayed. Eventually, Brundige connected with everyone, and once assured of their safety, began looking at ways he could help.
He reached out to the Robinson Community Center and learned there were about 75 misplaced families who were in need of basic supplies.
“We live in these communities, and we all work here at the facility – we’re one big family,” he said. “We wanted to do whatever we could to help, even if it was something small.”
With approval from leadership, Brundige went out and purchased three palettes of water (4,300 bottles), along with 400 toothbrushes and 400 tubes of toothpaste. A group of employees from Marathon helped deliver the supplies, carving out time despite working around the clock for the turnaround.
A couple days following the tornado, power was restored to the area, but recovery efforts continue.
“If we weren’t in a turnaround, we’d be out there helping cut trees and cleanup,” Prendergast said. “We’re a small town, so even if you don’t know someone, we stick together.”