SPRINGFIELD – With river levels expected to reach record or near-record levels at several locations along the Mississippi River this week, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich today said he has directed emergency management officials to increase state personnel and assets to help communities protect homes, local water supply systems, bridges, roads and other critical infrastructure. This weekend, more than 400 Illinois National Guard troops and more than 220 inmates were deployed to western Illinois to assist with large-scale sandbagging operations, and on Sunday the Governor called up an additional 100 troops from the Air National Guard to support efforts in the region.
On Monday, the Governor also encouraged state agency directors to authorize state employees who are certified as American Red Cross volunteers to participate in disaster relief efforts for those areas affected by the recent floods and severe storms. Under the Disaster Service Volunteer Leave Act, state employees who are certified Red Cross volunteers can receive up to 20 days paid time to serve with the Red Cross following disasters at the request of the American Red Cross.
“We’re at a very critical juncture in the fight against the Mighty Mississippi, and I am committed to providing every possible state resource we can to help protect these threatened communities,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “In addition to our many National Guards troops and other personnel and assets already in the region, I am encouraging my state agency directors to allow their employees who are certified as American Red Cross volunteers to help out during this emergency. We all need to pull together and help our fellow Illinoisans during their time of great need.”
Through the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) in Springfield, representatives from more than a dozen state and federal agencies are coordinating the deployment of state assets and personnel and developing plans for several flood emergency scenarios, including the loss of public water supplies. Currently, the state has a stockpile of nearly 100,000 gallons of water, and is prepared to immediately deploy water to a community if the water supply is disrupted. The state intends to continually replenish the stockpile to ensure an adequate supply is available at all times.
The state also is developing contingency plans to assist communities in the event any sewage treatment facility is affected by floodwaters.
In addition to strategic planners in the SEOC, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) has assigned Incident Management Teams to Adams, Henderson, Mercer and Pike counties, as well as to the Unified Area Command in Quincy, to help local emergency managers develop plans for addressing crucial flood-related issues.
“Developing incident action plans that address all contingencies enables us to respond immediately and effectively to reduce the risk to life and property during a disaster,” said IEMA Director Andrew Velasquez III.
Sandbags are a critical commodity during flooding as the state and local communities work to reinforce levees that protect homes, critical infrastructure and farmland. To date, the State of Illinois has deployed more than 2.8 million sandbags, and is prepared to provide at least another 4.5 million sandbags within the next few days to help communities shore up vital levees. More than 400 Illinois National Guard soldiers were deployed by Gov. Blagojevich this weekend to western Illinois to help with sandbagging operations along several levees. In addition, more than 220 inmates from the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) were also dispatched to the area this weekend to assist with sandbagging.
The state is also closely monitoring the impact of floodwaters on vital interstate transportation routes along the Mississippi River, including bridges that link Illinois to Missouri and Iowa. Over the weekend, the Illinois Department of Transportation began work placing 1,000 feet of barrier wall and 4-5 feet of gravel to elevate the roadway on Illinois 136 leading up to the bridge to Keokuk, Iowa. The elevation should enable the bridge to remain open as the river crests within the next few days.
State officials encourage people along the Mississippi River and other flooded waterways in Illinois to ensure they are adequately prepared for emergencies by having a family emergency plan and a disaster supply kit with such items as a three-day supply of water, non-perishable food, battery-operated radio, flashlight and a first aid kit. More information about personal emergency planning can be found on the Ready Illinois website at www.ready.illinois.gov.