On the night of June 22, 2016 at 10:06 PM, an EF-2 tornado touched down just outside of Pontiac, IL and proceeded to rip an 11 mile path approximately four football fields wide straight through the town. Wind speeds were estimated between 115-125 mph. Several people were injured and dozens of buildings flattened.
Located less than a mile outside of the path of destruction is the town’s tallest building – a seven-story assisted living center called Evenglow Lodge. Cindy Fox, a Certified Occupational Therapist Assistant and Director of Rehab for Infinity Rehab at the facility, was at home when the town’s warning sirens began to sound.
“You get so used to the sirens, that it’s almost easy to ignore,” says Cindy. “But then the official text message came saying ‘take cover’ really made it serious.” She sought safety in her basement and waited for the worst of the storm to pass. During that time, she received text messages from family and friends saying Pontiac had been hit by a tornado. “I kept getting these texts asking if I was okay but for some reason my texts weren’t going out, so I didn’t know the extent of the damage.”
Power had gone out in the town. From her basement, she heard an ambulance with its sirens on pass by her home. Cindy emerged from her house to see a town covered in darkness. “The entire town was pitch black,” she recalls. “My immediate thought was for the safety of the residents back at Evenglow.”
Cindy ran about a mile in the rain and wind to the assisted living center to find that the auxiliary generator just kicked on, but room call lights, door alarms and air conditioning were not working. The summer heat was beginning to assert itself throughout the building.
Cindy worked with other building staff to make sure residents had access to portable oxygen tanks, and went room-to-room to check on residents. “It was just a skeleton crew,” recalls Cindy. “The building administrator came in and the director of nursing was on-site to help and did room-to-room checks with us every hour, everyone was okay. The residents weren’t aware of the severity of the situation, they were mainly annoyed that there wasn’t power and they had to get out of bed!”
Power was restored around 5 AM. Evenglow and its residents escaped the brunt of the tornado. According to local news affiliates, four people were inside a mobile home not too far from the assisted living center. The tornado lifted it from its foundation and left it crumpled; the people inside received cuts, bruises and broken bones. Property damage throughout the path of the tornado was extensive.
Cindy’s story is just a small glimpse of what the residents of Pontiac, IL experienced on that night. But her story tells of the good that comes from people working together during times of chaos and uncertainty. “Everyone worked as team and it turned out the best it could have,” says Cindy.