SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today activated the State Emergency Operations Center in Springfield to continue to coordinate state response efforts to the storm-ravaged Metro East. Additionally, the Governor dispatched the Illinois Emergency Management Agency’s Unified Area Command vehicle to the Metro East where it will establish a Unified Area Command, or UAC. The UAC will be able to provide coordinated assistance with the recovery efforts in the entire region. Earlier today, the Governor 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.
“We are 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,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “By declaring Madison and St. Clair counties as state disaster areas and coordinating the efforts on the ground through our unified command vehicle, we will be able to ensure that resources are used as effectively and efficiently as possible.”
UAC will be able to coordinate tactical decisions in the field and immediately connect back to the State Emergency Operations Center to make strategic decisions in support of affected areas in the state.
Efforts to restore power from the Wednesday storms were seriously hampered by Friday storms. Ameren, which supplies electricity to the area, had anticipated having power to the area fully by Saturday morning.
Among the highest-priority response efforts is ensuring safe drinking water. Area-wide power failures have affected public water supply distribution systems, resulting in loss of water pressure, and opening the distribution systems to possible contamination. System-wide boil orders are now in place for East St. Louis, Alton, Granite City, Columbia, Waterloo, Cahokia, Caseyville, Millstadt, O'Fallon, Common Fields of Cahokia Public Water District, Prairie DuPont Public Water District and Scott Air Force Base. The total affected population is approximately 300,000 consumers. IEMA is also preparing to supply potable water to some communities, if the need arises. Portable water is already being delivered to Granite City by the Illinois American Water Company.
The Illinois Emergency Management Agency and county Emergency Services and Disaster agencies worked with the local Red Cross to establish cooling centers in the area. Damage Assessment Teams were dispatched to identify the areas of greatest need and to evaluate the damage. Government agencies continue to focus on life safety issues and keeping those without power safe. IEMA and other state agencies, including the Illinois Departments of Transportation and Corrections stand ready to assist in cleanup efforts if requested to do so.
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.