While Vandalia Bus Lines is used to traveling to other communities to help people after a natural disaster, this week the company was helping its neighbors after a levy broke.
More than 12 inches of rain fell overnight on July 26 in some areas of the St. Louis and southwest Illinois regions, creating life-threatening flash flooding in Caseyville, Illinois, and other communities.
A stone’s throw from Vandalia’s bus yard, 120 residents of the Caseyville Nursing & Rehabilitation Center had to be evacuated after the Little Canteen Creek Levee was breached in several areas.
Vandalia Bus Lines was there within minutes of getting a heads up from the city’s emergency crew that residents of a nursing home needed to be moved to the Caseyville Community Center.
“It literally was probably 100 or 200 yards away from our parking lot where the dam broke and flooded all the neighborhoods,” said Phil Streif, who along with employee Jay Fath, evacuated people from the nursing home. “We had two buses in our yard that we sent out immediately to help shuttle people to safety as fast as we could.”
Water rose quickly
The nursing home flooded quickly and had about a foot of water within an hour after rescuers arrived. The situation was pretty scary for the elderly residents, many of whom had difficulty walking. Complicating the evacuation, some patients had Covid-19 and had to be separated from others so the illness didn’t spread.
Vandalia also sent a mini bus to the nearby flooded trailer park to help residents get to dry land. City workers had other vehicles out there and were using anything they could get their hands on to evacuate people.
“People really stepped up to help the community,” said United Motorcoach Association Board Member Dennis Streif, Phil’s father and co-owner of the family-owned company. “We probably evacuated between 80 and 90 residents.”
While Vandalia has lots of experience evacuating people after natural disasters, this was the first it had to spring to action in its own community.
“We’ve sent a lot of buses to the south to evacuate people after hurricanes since 2005 when Hurricane Katrina struck, but we haven’t done this in our own backyard,” Dennis said. “We feel fortunate we were ready and prepared to help our community in their time of need.”