HomeNewsAmazon Says Tornado Formed in Illinois Warehouse’s Parking Lot

Amazon Says Tornado Formed in Illinois Warehouse’s Parking Lot

by Courtney Blackann
Photographer: Liam Kennedy/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Devastation from this weekend’s massive tornado strike continues as survivors grapple with how to go on from here. Though there were dozens of employees working at an Amazon factory during the time of the storm, six people still died due to the disaster. Now, in the wake of the damage, authorities are trying to sort out the details of what happened. One Amazon official is certain the tornado formed in the parking lot of the facility moments before it struck.

According to the New York Times, Kelly Nantel, an Amazon spokeswoman, said nearly 200 people worked at the delivery station over every shift. It’s unclear how many people were working at 8:27 p.m. when the tornado warning for Edwardsville, Illinois went into effect. Nantel said over a period of 11 minutes, the storm formed in the parking lot. It hit the building, she said, and then dissipated.

Forty-five people that evening made it out alive. But for six others and their families, it would be a devastating loss of life. The victims range in age from 26 to 62 years of age. This included a Navy veteran and a mother of an infant child.

“I felt like the floor was coming off the ground,” delivery driver Alonzo Harris said. “I felt the wind blowing and saw debris flying everywhere, and people started screaming and hollering and the lights went out.”

The large Amazon facility sits in an open field on flat terrain. This made it a prime target for a tornado. Upon hearing the warning, many people flocked to the two shelters in place to take cover. But the swiftness of the storm meant not everyone survived.

Aerial footage of the damage shows a collapsed roof and Amazon vans crushed beneath the rubble. The storm, which raged through parts of Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, and other central states was one of the most deadly on record. Hundreds of people died.

Workers at Amazon Question Cell Phone Policy in Wake of Disaster

The incident is causing workers to question a strict Amazon policy about cell phone usage. Workers generally lock their cell phone up in lockers prior to their shifts. It’s a requirement that was lifted temporarily during the pandemic in March 2020. However, the company was discussing reinstating the rule.

“After this, everyone is definitely afraid of not being able to keep their phones on them,” one of the workers said. “Most employees that I’ve talked to don’t keep their phones on them for personal conversation throughout the day. It’s genuinely for situations like this.”

No doubt the thought of losing contact with a loved one in an emergency is tremendously frightening.

“I had a coworker that was sending me pictures when they were taking shelter in the bathroom, basically anywhere they could hide,” said Alexander Bird, who works at a warehouse across the street. “People had to think on their feet quick.”