NOAA Magazine || NOAA Home Page || Previous Story

ILLINOIS MANUFACTURING PLANT PROVES SEVERE WEATHER PLANS SAVE LIVES

NOAA image of automobiles destroyed by the July 13, 2004, tornado that struck Parsons Manufacturing near Roanoke, Ill.Aug. 17, 2004 — Company planning and paying attention to developing storms were key factors in protecting more than 140 employees when an F-4 tornado demolished an Illinois manufacturing plant last month, officials from the NOAA National Weather Service said. (Click NOAA image for larger view of automobiles destroyed by the July 13, 2004, tornado that struck Parsons Manufacturing near Roanoke, Ill. Click here for high resolution version, which is a large file. Please credit “NOAA.”)

Forecast and warning services, including NOAA All-Hazards Radio, worked as designed to provide timely public notice of an approaching severe thunderstorm and the tornado it produced, said NOAA Weather Service Central Region Director Dennis McCarthy, but the foresight of the plant owner in developing and implementing a severe weather plan gave workers extra minutes to take shelter. Not a single injury was suffered by any of the 140-150 employees on site at Parsons Manufacturing near Roanoke, Ill. The plan has been in effect since the plant was built in the 1970s.

NOAA image of what was left of Parsons Manufacturing near Roanoke, Ill., after an F-4 tornado obliterated the plant but injured none of the employees.“Employees at Parsons Manufacturing actually had the best of both worlds to keep them from harm when that tornado struck,” McCarthy said. “Our Central Illinois weather forecast office issued a severe thunderstorm warning, which activated Parsons’ severe weather plan. A major factor of that plan was having a designated in-house storm watcher responsible for monitoring the storm. The storm and tornado actually formed near the plant and development was tracked by the storm watcher, who gave the initial word for employees to get to the three designated storm shelters. (Click NOAA image for larger view of what was left of Parsons Manufacturing near Roanoke, Ill., after an F-4 tornado obliterated the plant but injured none of the employees. Click here for high resolution version, which is a large file. Please credit “NOAA.”)

“When our forecasters subsequently issued the tornado warning, employees were already moving to the shelters. That gave them an extra 5-7 minutes for the 140-150 individuals inside and outside the 250,000-square-foot plant to get out of harm’s way. In a situation where seconds can count in saving lives, extra minutes helped keep everyone from harm.”

NOAA image of an undated aerial image of Parsons Manufacturing before an F-4 tornado roared through and demolished the plant on July 13, 2004.
(Click NOAA image for larger view of an undated aerial image of Parsons Manufacturing before an F-4 tornado roared through and demolished the plant on July 13, 2004. Click here for high resolution version, which is a large file. Please credit “NOAA.”)
NOAA image of an aerial image taken July 15, 2004, of Parsons Manufacturing after an F-4 tornado destroyed the plant on July 13, 2004.(Click NOAA image for larger view of an aerial image taken July 15, 2004, of Parsons Manufacturing after an F-4 tornado destroyed the plant on July 13, 2004. Click here for high resolution version, which is a large file. Please credit “NOAA.”)
NOAA image of crushed cars that were tossed around like toys by the F-4 tornado that struck Parsons Manufacturing near Roanoke, Ill., on July 13, 2004.
(Click NOAA image for larger view of crushed cars that were tossed around like toys by the F-4 tornado that struck Parsons Manufacturing near Roanoke, Ill., on July 13, 2004. Click here for high resolution version, which is a large file. Please credit “NOAA.”)
NOAA image of the destroyed manufacturing plant near Roanoke, Ill., after an F-4 tornado struck on July 13, 2004.
(Click NOAA image for larger view of the destroyed manufacturing plant near Roanoke, Ill., after an F-4 tornado struck on July 13, 2004. Click here for high resolution version, which is a large file. Please credit “NOAA.”)

Owner Bob Parsons said the time and energy invested in the plan over the years was paid back with dividends on July 13. He encouraged other business owners to follow suit.

NOAA image of a map showing the path of the F-4 tornado that struck across Illinois on July 13, 2004.“My life is more fulfilled because I don't have to kick myself because I failed at providing a safe workplace for my employees," Parsons said. "The money invested in shelters and your safety plan is just another piece of insurance against the unexpected. Along with that, is the moral obligation to do what is right to take care of your employees and protect your business." (Click NOAA image for larger view of a map showing the path of the F-4 tornado that struck across Illinois on July 13, 2004. Please credit “NOAA.”)

In setting up a severe weather plan, Parsons said owners should, "Think about your own safety. Where would you go? Whatever you would decide to do as an owner or manager to keep yourself safe, you need to do for all your employees. You have a responsibility to your employees; it's not the employees' responsibility. They are not in the position to make that decision."

NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of the nationís coastal and marine resources. NOAA is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Relevant Web Sites
NOAA Roanoke Tornado Survey Information

NOAA All-Hazards Radio


NOAA National Weather Service Central Region

NOAA Tornadoes Page

Media Contact:
Patrick Slattery, NOAA National Weather Service Central Region, (816) 891-7734 ext. 621
(Photos of damaged cars and plant courtesy of NOAA’s Marc Kagan.)