SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today announced that state emergency management officials are working closely with officials in parts of eastern Illinois where recent heavy snowfall and rain are causing rivers and streams to begin to overflow their banks.
Early Thursday morning, Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) Director Andrew Velasquez III dispatched an agency regional coordinator to Watseka to meet with emergency management personnel and help determine if state assistance is needed to help fight rising floodwaters. The same regional coordinator spent 20 days working in Watseka during January to assist the community as it battled record flooding that damaged more than 200 homes in the area. Two additional IEMA regional coordinators spent up to a week helping with the flood effort.
“Communities in eastern Illinois are nervously watching waters rise, and we want to make sure they know the state is ready to provide whatever assistance local officials need to protect people, their homes and other buildings,” said Gov. Blagojevich.
The state is also monitoring flooding in Vermilion County, where at least two dozens homes are threatened by rising water levels. IEMA is assisting local officials by coordinating the delivery of flood clean up kits and will provide personnel to assist with damage assessments once the water recedes.
IEMA is also working with local officials in Iroquois and Livingston counties to determine if there are any additional damages from the January flood that could be submitted to FEMA in an appeal of the federal government’s denial of the state’s request for federal assistance. The state was notified Wednesday that its request for federal assistance for individuals and businesses hard-hit by the flooding had been denied. If local officials feel additional damages have been found since an assessment conducted in mid-January by state and federal personnel, IEMA will send staff to the area to assess and document.
“We’re extremely disappointed that the federal government has ignored the needs of people whose homes were severely damaged or destroyed by the January flooding, and want to assure everyone affected that the state will continue to work to try to get some assistance to help them rebuild their lives,” said Velasquez.
On Wednesday, Illinois Department of Natural Resources Conservation Police (CPO’s) and boats were sent to Villa Grove in Douglas County to help stranded motorists in floodwaters. Conservation Police also provided airboat services to a power company in Jasper County to assist with the repair of downed power lines.
People living and traveling in areas experiencing flooding are urged to obey “Road Closed” signs and to be cautious when traveling in flooded areas.
“Flooding kills more people each year than tornadoes or lightning,” said Velasquez. “Most flood-related fatalities involve people in vehicles trying to cross a flooded roadway. We are urging everyone to exercise caution when traveling in these flooded areas, and to never attempt to drive over a flooded roadway.”
Velasquez said the speed and depth of the water is not always obvious, and hidden portions of the roadway may have washed away. Just two feet of water can carry away most automobiles.