March 24 was one of those days where the loss of a $100,000 free-standing crane was part of the good news for everyone at IVP Plastics in Washington, Ill.
On track for a record year, the custom injection molder was running a part-time shift that Saturday. About a dozen employees were keeping up with increased demand for control handles, levers and instrument panels made from reinforced plastics and specialty materials for the automotive, agricultural and heavy equipment markets.
Outside, 8 inches of heavy, wet snow piled and then drifted as a spring-time blizzard hammered central Illinois with wind gusts up to 40 mph.
It was all too much for the 26-year-old rounded roof over IVP's main manufacturing building. The arc-shaped structure, where 17 of the factory's 19 presses were housed, caved in.
Employees scrambled to safety, as they had rehearsed in emergency drills, and the roof dropped but did not crash all the way to the ground. No one was injured, thanks to that 12-foot-tall crane with interior rails shouldering the section of ceiling over the core of the manufacturing center.
"As far as we're concerned, that was a godsend," IVP President Daryl Lindemann said in a phone interview. "If the crane system hadn't been in place, the roof would've come all the way down to the floor and been much more injurious to our employees and possibly destroyed equipment."
The 17 expensive machines were still threatened, however, as a rush of water from busted pipes poured down from the ceiling with no end in sight. The collapse caused the water pressure in the tower system to drop, and to equalize pressure, the system did what it is designed to do. It pumped through more water, flooding the building.
Unfortunately, the utility could not turn off the water right away.
"It pumped 250,000 gallons through our facility, primarily draining a local water tower that's a couple blocks away," Lindemann said. "It absolutely permeated the place. All 54,000 square feet had water — not deep, but it was everywhere."