SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today directed more state resources to help communities hard hit by a major winter storm last week. The latest action will send additional Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) inmate crews and trucks from the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) to several communities to help clean up downed trees and branches.
“It could take a long time for communities to recover after last week’s winter storm. We have a lot of resources in state government to help them out - like Department of Corrections work crews and Department of Transportation equipment. We continue to listen and respond to what local leaders tell us they need,” said Gov. Blagojevich.
State resources, such as inmates and heavy equipment, are already assisting with debris removal in Taylorville, Kincaid, Nokomis and Mechanicsburg. On Thursday, four inmate crews with 28 inmates will begin working in Decatur to help that city’s cleanup efforts. Twenty IDOT trucks and four end loaders will also assist with debris removal in Decatur. In addition, two inmate crews with 16 inmates, along with two dump trucks and one end loader, will be in Shram City on Thursday and Friday for debris removal. One inmate crew with eight inmates will assist with the cleanup in Harvel on Friday and Monday, with two IDOT dump trucks also part of that effort. On Monday, two inmate crews with 16 inmates, along with two end loaders and six trucks, will be working in Buffalo and Mechanicsburg to clear storm debris.
IDOT equipment is also being sent to Fairview Heights and Swansea on Thursday to assist with cleanup efforts in those cities. Four trucks and two end loaders are being sent to Fairview Heights, while one end loader and one chipper will be in Swansea.
Illinois Army National Guard soldiers on Wednesday continued door-to-door welfare checks of Decatur area residents who have been without power since late last week. Gov. Blagojevich on Monday directed the National Guard troops to assist Decatur and Macon County officials in their efforts to ensure the safety of people in the area. As of Wednesday afternoon, Guardsmen had checked on more than 4,000 homes, passing out safety information and assisting people in need of shelter or medical attention.
Also as of Wednesday afternoon, more than 68,000 homes were still without electricity in Illinois. While temperatures were warmer Wednesday in most parts of the state, forecasts for Wednesday evening and Thursday call for much colder temperatures, with wind chills below zero degrees or in the single digits. State officials again reminded people, particularly those who are still without power, to use caution when trying to stay warm and to consider moving to a shelter if it becomes too cold in the home. Cold weather safety tips include:
- Dress warmly and in layers.
- Hang blankets over windows at night and stuff cracks around doors with rugs, newspapers, towels or similar materials. Let the sun shine in during the day to help warm the home.
- Eat to supply heat, and drink non-alcoholic beverages to avoid dehydration.
- Do not use candles to light or heat a home. Make sure you have flashlights and extra batteries for lighting darkened homes.
- Never use a barbecue grill indoors.
- Never attempt to heat your home with an oven.
- If using a fireplace, ensure the flue is fully vented to prevent fumes from building up in the house.
- Exercise caution when using generators. The primary hazards with generators are carbon monoxide poisoning from engine exhaust, electric shock or electrocution, and fire. Portable generators should never be used indoors, including in a garage, carport, basement, crawlspace or other enclosed or partially-enclosed area, even with ventilation. Be sure to turn the generator off and let it cool down before refueling. Gasoline spilled on hot engine parts could ignite.
On 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 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:
- Gov. Blagojevich declared 49 counties disaster areas due to record or near-record snowfall and/or extraordinary ice formations. The gubernatorial proclamation assists 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.
- 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.
- 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.