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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 22, 2004

Governor Blagojevich sends letter to President Bush asking for Federal Disaster Declaration

CHICAGO - Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich today sent a letter to President Bush, urging him to declare several tornado-ravaged Illinois counties a federal disaster area.  The counties, LaSalle, Putnam, Will, Kankakee and the contiguous county of Grundy, suffered extensive damage and loss after tornadoes and severe storms swept through the region Tuesday evening.
 
“I respectfully request that you declare an expedited major disaster for the state of Illinois as a result of severe storms and tornadoes on April 20, 2004.  Initial reports indicate that over 316 homes have been impacted including 20 homes destroyed and another 87 homes with major damage in the four most severely impacted counties.  Eight deaths and seven injuries are attributed to the storms. There are currently over 100 families whose homes were severely damaged or destroyed due to the storms.  The state of Illinois is facing a multi-billion dollar deficit that hinders our ability to fully and completely recover,” Governor Blagojevich wrote.
 
The Governor specifically requested assistance from the federal government in the following areas:  Individual Assistance, including the Individual and Households Program to include the Disaster Housing Program and Other Needs Assistance, Public Assistance, Hazard Mitigation Assistance Statewide, assistance from the Small Business Administration Disaster Loan Program, the Disaster Unemployment Assistance Program, Disaster Legal Services, Crisis Counseling and appropriate agricultural programs. Governor Blagojevich said these programs would help meet the immediate housing and other unmet needs of those impacted by the storms.
 
A federal disaster declaration would allow residents and local governments to qualify for federal assistance in a variety of areas including:
 
  • Disaster Housing may be available for up to 18 months, using local resources, for displaced persons whose residences were heavily damaged or destroyed. Funding also can be provided for housing repairs and replacement of damaged items to make homes habitable.
  • Disaster Grants are available to help meet other serious disaster related needs and necessary expenses not covered by insurance and other aid programs. These may include replacement of personal property, and transportation, medical, dental and funeral expenses.
  • Low-Interest Disaster Loans are available after a disaster for homeowners and renters from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to cover uninsured property losses. Loans may be for repair or replacement of homes, automobiles, clothing or other damaged personal property. Loans are also available to businesses for property loss and economic injury.
  • Other Disaster Aid Programs include crisis counseling, disaster-related unemployment assistance, legal aid and assistance with income tax, Social Security and Veteran's benefits. Other state or local help may also be available.
  • Public Assistance would be available to aid to state or local governments to pay part of the costs of rebuilding a community's damaged infrastructure. Generally, public assistance programs pay for 75 per cent of the approved project costs. Public Assistance may include debris removal, emergency protective measures and public services, repair of damaged public property, loans needed by communities for essential government functions and grants for public schools.
On a tour of the devastation Wednesday, Governor Blagojevich declared the region a state disaster area, committing significant state funds and resources for recovery efforts.  This state assistance includes heavy equipment from the Illinois Department of Transportation and assistance from the Illinois Department of Corrections to help remove debris caused by the tornadoes and severe storms, which could be overwhelming for these communities.
 
The state mobilized various resources after the tornadoes struck and provided the following services:
 
  • Illinois Department of Natural Resources officers worked with helicopter personnel to evaluate and evacuate damaged buildings.  They also provided law enforcement officers for door-to-door and general security checks.  Starved Rock Lodge is serving as the location for family members to receive information about persons who are missing.  The department is also providing security services throughout the night.  
  • Illinois Department of Transportation personnel investigated bridge safety as well as dispatched trucks, end-loaders, heavy equipment and personnel to help in the cleanup efforts
  • Illinois Department of Public Health sent medical teams to Illinois Valley Community Hospital and is assisting families with counseling.
  • Illinois State Police officers dispatched to Granville and Utica to assist with local law enforcement efforts.
  • Illinois Emergency Management Agency is coordinating the state’s emergency response and has staff in every significantly impacted area to ensure the state is working hand-in-hand with local officials as well as the American Red Cross. 
  • Office of the State Fire Marshal coordinated the fire rescue/EMS response.
  • The Illinois Commerce Commission activated the Illinois Emergency Communications Network to coordinate utility restoration efforts.

____________________________________________________________________________________

April 22, 2004
 
The Honorable George W. Bush
President of the United States
The White House
Washington, D.C. 20500
 
Through:          Mr. Edward Buikema
                      Director, Region V
                      Federal Emergency Management Agency
                      Sixth Floor
                      536 South Clark
                      Chicago, IL  60605
 
Dear Mr. President:
 
Under the provisions of Section 401 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 5121-5206 (Stafford Act), and implemented by 44 CFR § 206.36, I respectfully request that you declare an expedited major disaster for the State of Illinois as a result of severe storms and tornadoes on April 20, 2004.  Initial reports indicate that over 316 homes have been impacted including 20 homes destroyed and another 87 homes with major damage in the four most severely impacted counties.  Eight deaths and seven injuries are attributed to the storms.
 
The core counties for which I am initially requesting Federal disaster assistance are Kankakee, LaSalle, Putnam, Will and the contiguous County of Grundy.  I respectfully reserve the right to request additional counties upon completion of the on-going damage assessments.
 
In response to the situation, I have taken appropriate action under State law and directed the execution of the Illinois Emergency Operations Plan by proclaiming that a disaster exists within the State of Illinois on April 21, 2004, in accordance with Section 401 of the Stafford Act.  My proclamation of disaster authorizes the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) to coordinate assistance to all areas of the State impacted by the severe storms and devastating tornadoes.
 
On April 21, 2004, a joint Federal/State Preliminary Damage Assessment (PDA) was requested.  The PDA began on April 22 and continues.  Preliminary assessments indicated the most severe impacts were to Utica in LaSalle County where an F-3 tornado destroyed blocks in the downtown area resulting in eight deaths and four serious injuries.  Several businesses were severely impacted, as well as City Hall, an elementary school and the Fire Station.  Power has not been restored but crews are working toward that goal.  Utica businesses rely on tourism and the local economy will be affected for sometime.  Disaster Unemployment Assistance may be necessary because of the level of self-employment.
 
In Granville, in Putnam County, approximately six blocks of modest homes suffered major to minor damage.  A school also suffered damage to its roof.  Based on both the reports from the PDA and my personal visit to the impacted area, I have determined that this incident is of such severity and magnitude that effective response and recovery is beyond the capabilities of the State and affected local governments and that supplementary Federal assistance is necessary. 
 
There are currently over 100 families whose homes were severely damaged or destroyed due to the storms.  The State of Illinois is facing a multi-billion dollar deficit that hinders our ability to fully and completely recover.  Therefore, I am specifically requesting: Individual Assistance, including the Individual and Households Program to include the Disaster Housing Program and Other Needs Assistance, Public Assistance, Hazard Mitigation Assistance statewide, assistance from the Small Business Administration Disaster Loan Program, the Disaster Unemployment Assistance Program, Disaster Legal Services, Crisis Counseling and appropriate agricultural programs. These programs will help to meet the immediate housing and other unmet needs of those impacted by the storms.
 
The Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) activated the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) at 7:10 p.m. on April 20, 2004, to coordinate State response efforts following notification of tornadoes in north central Illinois.  Damage from the tornadoes was reported in Granville (Putnam County), Utica (LaSalle County), near Joliet (Will County) and in Kankakee County.  The Illinois Emergency Operations Plan was activated at 7:40 p.m.  State agencies reporting to the SEOC included IEMA, the Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), the Department of Transportation (IDOT) Highways and Aeronautics, the Department of Public Health (IDPH), the Illinois State Police (ISP), Office of the State Fire Marshal (OSFM), the Department of Correction (IDOC), the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC), and Central Management Services (CMS).  The American Red Cross also reported to the SEOC.
 
The Mutual Aid Box Alarm System (MABAS) was activated as part of the State of Illinois’ statewide fire mutual aid plan at 7:45 p.m., with ambulances, heavy rescue equipment, five Technical Rescue Teams, 14 MABAS divisions and other personnel dispatched to Utica. The Illinois Law Enforcement Alarm System (ILEAS) was activated at 7:52 p.m. as part of the State of Illinois’ new statewide law enforcement mutual aid system with 20 squad cars and police officers dispatched to Utica. The State Forward Command Post was called out at 8:59 p.m. and was operational in Utica at 1:10 a.m. on April 22.  State resources coordinated from the SEOC and sent to the disaster sites include equipment and personnel from IDOT, inmates and staff from IDOC, roving and stationary patrols from ISP, security personnel from IDNR, victim assistance from the American Red Cross and coordination of porta-potties and tetanus shot supplies from IDPH.
           
I certify that for this major disaster, the State and local governments will assume all applicable non-Federal share of costs required by the Stafford Act. 
 
I have designated William C. Burke, Director of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, as the State Coordinating Officer for this request.  Director Burke will work with the Federal Emergency Management Agency in damage assessment and may provide further information or justification on my behalf.
 
Thank you for considering our request.
 
                                                                                    Sincerely,
 
 
 
                                                                                    Rod R. Blagojevich
                                                                                    Governor


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