SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today declared two southwestern Illinois counties – Madison and St. Clair – as state disaster areas following Wednesday evening’s severe storm system that left hundreds of thousands of residents and businesses without power. The problem was exacerbated by extreme heat on Thursday, with temperatures in the Metro East area reaching over 100 degrees, and the heat index estimated to be 115.
As cleanup and repair efforts were underway, a second round of storms moved through the area on Friday, causing additional damage and power outages and disrupting the ongoing response to the Wednesday storms.
“The state is working closely with county and local emergency service agencies in the Metro East area to help restore power and get things back to normal as soon as possible,” Gov. Blagojevich said. “Many lives have been disrupted and our focus will be on repairing the damage.”
After Wednesday’s storms, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) worked with the Madison and St. Clair County and Granite City Emergency Services and Disaster agencies and the local Red Cross, to establish cooling centers in the Metro East area due to the extreme heat and loss of power. In addition, Damage Assessment Teams were dispatched to identify the areas of greatest need. All government agencies are focusing on life safety issues and trying to keep those without power safe. IEMA and other state agencies, including the Departments of Transportation and Corrections stand ready to assist in cleanup efforts if requested to do so.
“In Illinois, the response to an emergency is not tied to the declaration,” said IEMA Director William Burke. “We will always respond immediately to requests for disaster assistance.”
The declaration makes the Governor’s disaster assistance fund available to reimburse state and local agencies for extraordinary costs and they are retroactive to the time of the storm for purposes of reimbursement.
Staff with the Illinois Emergency Management Agency is still assessing the damage.
By state law the Governor’s disaster fund cannot be used to reimburse citizens or private businesses. Federal disasters thresholds must be reached for that type of assistance. The minimum threshold for a Small Business Administration disaster declaration is 25 homes and/or businesses that sustain a minimum of 40 percent uninsured loss in a county.