SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today declared 49 counties state disaster areas after a large portion of the state was hard hit by a winter storm that caused heavy snowfall, ice accumulation, frigid temperatures, power outages, and downed trees and branches.
“Winter came early last week when Illinois was blanketed by heavy snow and ice. I’m declaring these counties as disasters to help local governments with clean up,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “We’ve dispatched National Guard troops and state medical teams to go door-to-door in some cases to make sure people are okay. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – as long as people need help, we’ll work with local officials to get it to them.”
Gov. Blagojevich declared 49 counties disaster areas due to record or near-record snowfall and/or extraordinary ice formations, including: Adams, Bond, Boone, Brown, Bureau, Calhoun, Cass, Champaign, Christian, DeKalb, DeWitt, Fulton, Greene, Hancock, Henry, Jersey, Kendall, Knox, LaSalle, Lee, Livingston, Logan, Macon, Macoupin, Madison, Marshall, Mason, McLean, McDonough, McHenry, Menard, Morgan, Monroe, Montgomery, Ogle, Peoria, Piatt, Pike, Putnam, Sangamon, Schuyler, Scott, Shelby, St. Clair, Stark, Stephenson, Tazewell, Winnebago and Woodford.
The gubernatorial proclamation will assist the Illinois Emergency Management Agency in coordinating state resources, including the Illinois National Guard, to support local governments in their disaster response and recovery efforts.
On Tuesday, the Governor also directed inmate crews and state trucks to assist communities with debris cleanup. Two Illinois Department of Corrections inmate crews, totaling 26, will be in Nokomis on Wednesday and Thursday for debris removal, along with three trucks and an end loader from the Illinois Department of Transportation. One eight-person inmate work crew, two IDOT trucks and one IDOT end loader will be assisting Mechanicsburg on Wednesday with debris removal. In addition, an eight-person inmate team will also be assisting with debris removal in Kincaid Wednesday through Friday of this week.
Illinois Army National Guard soldiers began their door-to-door mission this morning in Decatur to help local officials ensure the health and welfare of area residents. Guardsmen visited more than 1,000 homes today, and will continue their efforts tomorrow. Central Illinois units from Company A, 2nd Battalion, 106th Aviation based in Pontiac, Company D, 2nd Battalion, 130th Infantry based in Salem and the Springfield-based 233rd Military Police Company have been placed on State Active Duty to support local officials. The more than 250 soldiers are distributing emergency information, as well as gathering information in the affected neighborhoods regarding status of services, blocked streets or intersections, trapped vehicles and other information that will be useful to police, fire and other emergency departments.
As of Tuesday afternoon, more than 108,000 homes were still without electricity in Illinois, nearly 38,000 of those in the Decatur area.
On Tuesday, November 28, with weather forecasts indicating a possible severe winter storm, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency began preparing for possible activation of the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) by reaching out to state agency liaisons and gathering pre-event information on available assets and response capabilities. The SEOC has been activated since the evening of Thursday, November 30 to monitor storm conditions and work with local officials on any state assistance needed. The SEOC will remain activated as long as necessary. To date the state has assisted in several ways, including:
- More than 500 troops from the Illinois Army National Guard helped ensure the safety of citizens on Saturday and Sunday. About 100 Guardsmen were sent to East St. Louis where they conducted more than 800 door-to-door checks on citizens, while others checked for stranded motorists at rest stops and along Interstate highways from the I-80 corridor down to I-70.
- An 18-member Illinois Medical Emergency Response Team (IMERT) was dispatched to Decatur to provide medical care at a shelter for special needs individuals at Richland Community College. So far, 11 area residents are at the shelter.
- Four inmate crews with a total of 52 inmates began working in Taylorville Monday to assist the Taylorville Street Department with storm debris removal. In addition, eight trucks from the Illinois Department of Transportation will assist with hauling debris.
- More than 120 cots from the Illinois National Guard and 600 meals were delivered by staff from the Department of Central Management Services to four shelters in St. Clair County.
- The state dispatched a Mobile Command Vehicle from Bloomington and an Illinois Transportable Emergency Communications System (ITECS) from Champaign to Decatur to aid with the emergency response effort. The equipment was purchased with the state’s homeland security funding but is available for use during any type of emergency.
- Using an Illinois National Guard Blackhawk helicopter, an Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) truck, Illinois Department of Natural Resources snowmobiles and an Illinois State Police four-wheel drive vehicle, 200 meals were delivered to stranded travelers at a rest area along I-80 near Princeton Friday evening, and another 200 were delivered to stranded motorists at a rest area east of Galesburg. In addition, IDOT Aeronautics provided disaster intelligence to the SEOC via an IDOT helicopter flying above the rest stop.
- The Illinois National Guard used equipment and personnel to assist with moving a small passenger jet at the Peoria Airport after it broke down, blocking the gate area.
- To date, more than 1,700 IDOT trucks have plowed more than 325,000 miles along Illinois interstates and highways.
- Hundreds of people have sought a warm place to spend the night at several shelters established by the American Red Cross.
- The SEOC is coordinating with local emergency management officials on assistance needed in their communities as they respond to the ice, heavy snow and strong winds.