Recovery in Robinson: Community continues comeback after tornado

Community News

Robinson, Illinois, Foundation
Aerial view of the tornado’s path a couple of weeks after the storm caused widespread damage in Illinois and Indiana.
  • After a large tornado left a wake of destruction in Robinson, Illinois, home to Marathon’s Robinson refinery, and the surrounding area, volunteers continue to support the community.
  • The tornado damaged or destroyed hundreds of properties in its path, including homes of Marathon Petroleum employees.
  • The Strauch family details the moments the tornado destroyed their home and how grateful they are for the support as they rebuild.

Just two months have passed since an EF3 tornado struck along the Illinois and Indiana border, causing significant damage in the community of Robinson, Illinois, home to Marathon Petroleum’s Robinson refinery, before moving into Sullivan County, Indiana, where many Marathon employees and their families also live.

At one point, it was estimated the tornado, with wind speeds of up to 155 mph, was a third of a mile long, leaving behind a trail of destruction that the National Weather Service (NWS) said stretched over 40 miles. Seven people died and many others were injured.

“The impacts of this storm reached far and wide, including members of our team who suffered devastating losses in addition to so many of our friends and neighbors in Robinson and the surrounding areas,” said Amy Macak, General Manager of Marathon Petroleum’s Robinson refinery.

Dan and Jodi Strauch, with daughters, Bailey, 19, who was away at college at the time of the tornado, and the couple’s twin daughters, Addison and Avery, 12.

Many people in the community experienced damage to their homes and properties. Four employees, including Dan and Jodi Strauch, an Advanced Practice Clinician at the refinery, lost their homes.

“We had no idea it was that bad,” said Dan Strauch, a Security Specialist at the Robinson refinery.

When they received the emergency alert, they took shelter in the basement with their 12-year-old twin daughters and a friend who was staying over. The tornado hit ten minutes later.

Before: Front view of Strauch home.
Before: Back view of Stauch home.

“It was so loud that you couldn’t identify any distinct sounds, but just noise,” Jodi Strauch said. “It didn’t last for more than 10 to 15 seconds. Our basement ceiling started to fall and the pipes in the basement burst causing the smoke alarm to go off. Initially there was some chaos, but even at that point, we had no idea the extent to what the damage to our home was.”

When the tornado was approaching, those three girls were the couple’s only concern.

“We had the girls get behind the sofa in the basement, and we covered them with ourselves,” Jodi Strauch recalled. “We were doing whatever we could to keep them calm.”

Home and property of Marathon employees Dan and Jodi Strauch the day after the tornado destroyed their home, located only a few miles from the refinery in Crawford County, Illinois.

The reality of what happened above them in those 10 to 15 seconds didn’t seem real at first.

“It took a couple of minutes to realize just how bad it was because we were just in shock,” explained Dan Strauch.

“I remind myself, the few things that we have left are far more important than the many things we lost.”

Eventually, the extent of what they had lived through started to sink in. Their home of ten years —what was left of it — was literally in pieces. Their garage, outbuilding, chicken coup, everything was gone. Dan Strauch’s Ford F-150 pickup truck was found wrapped around a tree, and their other vehicles were also destroyed. But they were safe.

Another view of the Strauch’s property, showing their jeep and ATV in the foreground and Dan’s truck wrapped around a tree, nowhere near where it was parked.

“I remind myself, the few things that we have left are far more important than the many things we lost,” Jodi Strauch said. “Not everyone was as lucky, and our hearts continue to be with them and their loved ones as our entire community is trying to make sense of what happened and work together to rebuild it.”

Metal and other building materials wrapped around what’s left of a tree in Crawford County, Illinois, illustrating the power of the tornado’s 150-plus mph winds.

Knowing the need didn’t just stop with the Strauch family and other employees, the refinery’s Emergency Response Team (ERT) deployed into the community the night of the storm to assist local first responders. That response only grew in the weeks and months that followed in the form of hundreds of volunteers from Marathon who have been helping with cleanup and rebuilding efforts.

“It has been eye-opening watching everyone come together and help wherever they can,” said Lenzi Ippolito, an Environmental Supervisor at the refinery, who has been helping coordinate relief efforts. “It’s surreal what happened here. You see what tornados can do in movies and on the news, but until you experience it firsthand, the level of devastation can’t be described.”

In the two months since the storm, Marathon employees logged almost 1,400 volunteer hours, though refinery leaders believe that number is much higher due to some employees not yet submitting their hours.

“From our ERT first responders to our team members who continue to provide aid to our community, I can’t thank them enough,” Macak said.

In addition to the ongoing volunteer efforts by Marathon employees and their families, the company committed $50,000 to the Crawford County Treasurer: 2023 Tornado Victims Fund and $50,000 to the Wabash Valley Community Foundation: Sullivan County 2023 Tornado Victims Fund for a collective investment of $100,000 to support area disaster relief.

“Marathon has always played a critical role in our success here in Crawford County, and to no one’s surprise, they have proven once again their love and commitment to this community,” said Rikki Callaway, Crawford County Treasurer. “Together, with their support, we will come back stronger than ever.”

MPC also activated a special employee matching gifts program for Tornado Relief Efforts in Robinson, Illinois, and nearby communities, raising over $100,000 in additional donations.

Cleanup continues for countless residents impacted by the early spring storm.