A Tornado That Couldn’t Destroy

A Tornado That Couldn't Destroy

As we enter tornado season, we look back on a particular storm that wasn’t able to destroy everything in its pathway.  Kirk Anderson’s story proves the metal building world is more than business.  It’s family.

On Tuesday July 13, 2004 at 2:41 PM Parsons Company Inc. in Roanoke, Illinois was hit full-force by an F4-class tornado.  Winds in excess of 240 mph brought down all 258,000 square feet of manufacturing buildings and scattered debris for miles.  Miraculously all 150 people working at the plant that day were without injury, thanks to an emergency weather program Parsons Company had in place and three storm shelters in which they took refuge.

We at P.J. Hoerr Inc., the builders for Parsons Company Inc., felt the devastation too.  We began our relationship with Parsons Company in 1996 with the creation of their first of three Star Buildings, all of which were constructed prior to the tornado.  Our company is one of Central Illinois’ premier general contractors, founded in 1914 and now going on our 102nd year of operation.  Parsons Company is a manufacturer of steel fabrications.  They’ve been in business since 1971 and were founded and still owned today by Mr. Bob Parsons.

There is a lot of respect between our companies, and after the tornado hit, Mr. Parsons was faced with a big decision—either re-build or retire.  Out of loyalty to his customers and employees, he decided to re-build.  A few days later he called us at P.J. Hoerr and asked if we would assist in the re-construction.  We humbly accepted the challenge.

Due to insurance reasons, the project needed to be done in what seemed to be an impossible deadline—all buildings enclosed by December 31, 2004.  This meant the existing, flattened, and twisted buildings and equipment had to be removed, foundations had to be assessed and partially reconstructed, and 258,000-square-foot of pre-engineered metal buildings had to be erected in five months.

One critical factor in meeting the schedule was whether or not Star Buildings could deliver the buildings by the required on-site date.  Mr. Joe Edge, who was President of Star Buildings at that time, decided to fly to Peoria and meet with Mr. Parsons and P.J Hoerr in person to see for himself the challenge his company was facing.

After a long day of meetings and several phone calls, Mr. Edge shook Mr. Parsons’s hand and guaranteed delivery.  And five short weeks after that handshake, the first building arrived on September 9, 2004.  The last roof sheet was installed on December 22, 2004.  The difficult deadline was not only met, but beat.

Parsons Company, P.J. Hoerr, and Star Buildings relationship has continued since 2004.  We most recently completed a 75,000-square-foot project on a separate property in 2012.  And we still visit with Mr. Parsons a few times a year.  Our conversations always go back to the amazing experience we all shared—the tornado that didn’t get the better of us.

This is a guest post by Kirk Anderson, Vice President of the Pre-engineered Division at P.J. Hoerr, Inc.  Projects include industrial, churches, schools, life safety and office/warehouses.
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Star Building Systems

Founded in 1927, Star Building Systems has seen and done it all, from supplying tool sheds for oil derrick drilling sites in the early oil boom days to hangar buildings during World War II. We set the industry standard for innovation and technology. Most importantly, we have the best builders in the business.


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    Reply May 17, 2016

    Bill Munich

    I am very disappointed in this article. I thought the point was going to be that all of the tilt, brick, wood and Butler buildings were flattened and the only thing to survive was Star metal buildings.

    • Star Building Systems
      Reply May 19, 2016

      Star Building Systems

      Some storms are too strong for even a Star Building to withstand – 240 mph winds take everything with them! The Star Builder, with Star’s help, made the best of a very bad situation and earned the loyalty of his customer.

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