SPRINGFIELD – After Governor Rod R. Blagojevich declared seven Illinois counties state disaster areas Tuesday following devastating weekend storms, staff from the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) today began assessments in the Springfield area to determine the extent of storm damage to homes, businesses and local government. The Governor also today urged Central Illinois residents to take public health precautions in the aftermath of the storms and the massive power outages they caused.
The National Weather Service today confirmed that two F-2 tornadoes hit Springfield Sunday evening. The first tracked from the southwest corner of the city to about 9th Street and South Grand Avenue, where it dissipated. The second tornado developed near Bunn Park on the city’s south side and traveled northeast, exiting Springfield near Clear Lake and 1-55.
“While the tornadoes were only on the ground a few minutes, the road to recovery will be a long one,” said Governor Blagojevich. “We are committed to doing whatever we can to help Central Illinois clean up and get back on its feet.”
IEMA and FEMA damage assessments will provide a better picture of whether or not there is enough uninsured damage to request a federal disaster declaration. If the area is declared a federal disaster area, financial assistance would be available to individuals and households for such things as temporary housing, home repair or replacement, medical, dental, funeral, transportation or other disaster related needs. Even if the affected areas don’t qualify for a federal disaster declaration, individuals and businesses may be eligible for low-interest loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration.
After meeting yesterday morning with IEMA staff and surveying some of the impacted areas, Gov. Blagojevich declared Ford, Greene, Logan, Morgan, Randolph, Sangamon and Scott counties state disaster areas. That declaration enables the state to assist affected communities with debris removal and other storm-related issues. State resources already deployed under this declaration include two loaders, 26 trucks, one generator and one backhoe from the Illinois Department of Transportation and more than 150 inmates from the Department of Corrections assisting with debris removal. Assistance to individuals is not available through the state disaster fund.
People who suffered damage are encouraged to contact their insurance companies and begin the claims process as soon as possible. And, anyone with immediate needs, such as food, shelter and medical, should contact their local American Red Cross for assistance.
The two tornadoes knocked out power to all of Springfield and the surrounding area at one point on Sunday night. And, some areas are still without power at this hour. The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) reports that when electricity is out, a fully stocked freezer will keep food frozen for two days, if the door remains closed, and a freezer half full can keep foods frozen about a day. If electric service is not expected to be restored within a day or two, IDPH recommends that frozen food be distributed to friends and family that have electricity.
IDPH also advises another option is to buy dry ice. However, it should not be touched with bare hands because it freezes everything it touches. Twenty-five pounds of dry ice will hold a 10-cubic-foot freezer below freezing for three to four days. Because dry ice also gives off carbon dioxide, the freezer door should be left open a short time before examining food. If unsure how long the electricity has been off, food that smells bad, is slimy, has an unusual color or is room temperature should be discarded. If food is still “cold-to-the-touch,” it may be cooked and eaten immediately, or refrozen.
When a refrigerator is without power, food inside can stay safely cold for four to six hours, depending on how warm the kitchen is. Adding block ice to the refrigerator will help keep goods cold, but as the ice melts, the water may saturate food packages. Consequently, food packages should be kept away from ice as it melts. Dairy products, meat, fish and poultry should have been consumed as soon as possible after the power went out since they cannot be stored safely at room temperature. However, fruits and vegetables can be kept at room temperature until there are obvious signs of spoilage such as mold, slime and wilting. With good ventilation, vegetables last longer at room temperature.
Private well water is not available when the power goes out unless there is a generator back up. If there is concern about well contamination from excessive rainwater around the well, disinfection steps should be taken. The most reliable method for purifying water is to vigorously boil the water for three minutes. This will kill any disease-causing bacteria present in the water.
When boiling is not practical, chemical disinfection should be used. Chlorine and iodine are the most commonly used chemical disinfectants. Liquid chlorine (bleach) is recommended for use in small individual systems when disinfection is necessary. However, chlorine may be obtained in powder or liquid form from drug stores or supermarkets. Whichever form of chlorine is used, it should be from a fresh source. When using the powder, it should be mixed with a quart of water and used without shaking only after the solution settles. This stock solution loses strength and should be freshly made at least once a week.
Common household iodine from the medicine chest or first aid kit also may be used to disinfect water. 10 drops of 2 percent tincture of iodine should be added to each gallon of water, then mixed well and left standing for at least 30 minutes before use.
Commercially prepared chlorine and iodine tablets containing the necessary dosage for drinking water disinfection may be obtained at any drug store and they should be used in accordance with label instructions.
Following weekend storms, the state of Illinois has taken a number of steps to help residents including:
· The Illinois Department of Human Services put together a 1-800 response number to field questions from residents impacted by the storms. That number is 800-568-0446.
· Work crews from the Illinois Department of Corrections numbering more than 70 inmates have been assisting the clean up in Morgan, Randolph, Sangamon and Scott counties.
· The Illinois Department of Transportation has crews cleaning up debris along the highways throughout the state and is assisting with equipment and manpower in Morgan and Sangamon counties.
· Gov. Blagojevich has directed his staff to work with the Illinois State Bar Association to set up a lawyer referral network for residents of impacted by the storm. Those impacted by the storms that have legal issues will be directed to the Illinois State Bar Association. They will assist residents by connecting them with a volunteer lawyer through the network. State agency lawyers are also being asked to field questions from state employees who may have storm-related legal questions.
· The Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) has also taken several steps to help Central Illinoisans recover from the weekend’s storm damage:
o the department invoked the Banking Emergencies act declaring a ‘bank holiday’ for banks that could not open due to storm damage;
o the department also created a list of licensed roofers working in Central Illinois to make it easier for families to find qualified repair firms; and
o the department has developed a special webpage so that this and other information is easily accessible.
o If Central Illinoisans need help finding a roofer they can refer to the list that is available at www.IDFPR.com
or call the division at 217-785-0800. The Division of Insurance has developed a series of recommendations on how to work effectively with insurance companies after a natural disaster. Information on that and other IDFPR-related questions can be referred to their toll-free consumer assistance hotline: 866-445-5364.