'Seared into my memory': SIU official reflects on May 8th - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

'Seared into my memory': SIU official reflects on May 8th

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CARBONDALE (WSIL) -- Many folks in southern Illinois vividly remember the Derecho of 2009. Brad Dillard, Director of Plant and Service Operations at SIU Carbondale, says it made for a memorable day at the university.

“It’s a day I’ll never forget. I’ve been with the university almost 31 years, and it’s seared into my memory," Dillard said.

(MORE: Remembering the Derecho: Insurance agent looks back)

Rick Shanklin with the National Weather Service Office in Paducah also remembers the storm. 

“The central plains is basically where things started developing, and then it intensifies greatly as it moved across southern Missouri, 70 to 90 mile an hour winds. The winds were sustained here on campus over 80 miles an hour for 20 minutes. Nothing like that has ever happened in any of our four state area in the 35 years that I’ve been forecasting weather in this part of the world," Shanklin said.

(MORE: 'It was just unbelievable': Residents, leaders, reporters recall super derecho)

The storm was strong enough to knock out power to campus, throwing a wrench in graduation plans. 

Teams of people were set into motion to make sure graduation went as smooth as possible. 

“We initially were going to have the commencement ceremonies, because of lack of power, in the old McAndrew Stadium. So we worked all night, cleaned the stadium all night, had hundreds of people working to prep the location, and then approximately 3 hours before the commencement was supposed to start, more thunderstorms rolled into the area, and so on less than 3 hours notice, we had to move the commencement ceremonies once again to inside to the student center facility. We were able to pull out all the stops and have a nice commencement exercise on Saturday, less than 24 hours after the storm, all with emergency generator power," Dillard said. 

(MORE: 10 Years: "The Derecho" still fresh in many minds)

Shanklin says storms like this serve as a reminder as to why it’s important to have a severe weather plan in place and be able to react quickly. 

He also remarked that this event served as somewhat of an impetus in getting SIU certified as Storm Ready.

(MORE: 10 Years Later: Remembering May 8th)

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