A Weekly Update on Issues with Illinois State Senator Gary Forby...
Last week, a deadly tornado struck Harrisburg in Saline County, and strong storms damaged neighboring communities. I feel terrible for all of the people who lost family, friends, and neighbors; for the people who lost their homes and businesses; and for everyone struggling with injuries and property damage. I left for Harrisburg as soon as I learned what happened.
This is a terrible tragedy for the people of Harrisburg, but it has demonstrated once again how well we all come together in a disaster. I have been very impressed by how much everyone has done to help their neighbors and how quickly everyone has reacted. Though we definitely have our differences on the state budget, I was happy that the governor and lieutenant governor came to Southern Illinois the day after the tornado and that he declared Harrisburg a disaster area, which will make it easier for state resources to get here. I also want to thank Comptroller Topinka for promising to make paying all tornado-related bills a top priority.
Private businesses have done their part, too. Ameren has done a good job of responding quickly and restoring power to as many people as possible as quickly as possible. I also was impressed by Frontier Communications’ offer to transfer phone calls to other numbers for people whose homes were destroyed or too badly damaged for them to return right away, and area hospitals have done a great job of caring for the injured.
But, the people who have impressed me most are the private citizens who have given up their own time and money to help the tornado victims. I’ve seen people taking time off work to help clear debris, using their own trucks, chainsaws, and other tools. Donations and emergency supplies have poured in from all over the state and region.
If you still want to donate, there are still many options. The Little Egypt Network of the Red Cross is doing a great job of coordinate rescue and repair efforts, and local banks, churches, businesses, and government offices throughout all of Southern Illinois have really stepped up to the challenge. If you need help finding somewhere you can volunteer or make a donation, call my office at (618) 439-2504.
As the dust settles and we start repairing and rebuilding, I do want to offer a little warning. Con men called “storm chasers” sometimes take advantage of tragedies to scam people out of their money. They will promise to do repair work and then take your money without doing the job. Make sure you check references and certifications before you sign contracts or make down payments. Use local companies whenever you can. If you are worried about a contractor or don’t know what to do, you can call the Illinois Attorney General’s Consumer Fraud hotline at (800) 243-0607.