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Oswego Workers Come to the Aid of Tornado Ravaged Town

Jul 13, 2015 09:12PM ● Published by Steven Jack

An Oswego Public Works employee works to clear debris from the June 22 tornado in Coal City. (Photo courtesy of the village of Oswego)

When a tornado tears through a town like the one that hit Coal City last month, there is usually no shortage of volunteers to help in the aftermath. 

But volunteers are limited in the scope of work they can perform. So, who takes care of much needed extra security, building inspections and clearing away all the debris from the streets when local municipal workers are overwhelmed?

Many municipal departments belong to mutual aid groups that pitch in times of great need. Oswego’s police, public works and building and zoning departments belong to such groups, and were mobilized to Coal City in the days after the EF3 tornado ripped through town June 22.

In all, Oswego Police sent officers on two different days for security and command support, public works sent eight workers on four different days and building and zoning sent inspection personnel over the course of four days.

“Volunteers are great, but they are limited in terms of equipment,” said Police Chief Jeff Burgner. “… All our folks took all their equipment down there with them and were able to function in their full capacities while working in Coal City.”

Jennifer Hughes, public works director, said four crews of two worked to cut down damaged trees and hauling away debris from the streets. In addition to helping local residents, Hughes said Oswego workers also were able to use the experience as a training exercise. 

“We are glad to have been able to help out another community,” she said. “I am very proud of our team’s response.  They put in long hours in difficult conditions and gained an understanding of how devastating a disaster can be for residents.”  

According to officials, much work still needs to be done in Coal City where over 800 buildings were damaged by up to 160 mph winds. As recently as this last weekend, organizers were still asking for volunteers to continue clean-up efforts. Those who may want to volunteer should call 815-518-3047.

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