SPRINGFIELD – Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich today expressed his gratitude to 1,400 soldiers and airmen from the Illinois Army and Air National Guard who supported efforts to protect several levees along the Mississippi River against floodwaters. The Governor also said he was pleased that President Bush on Monday approved a request from Illinois and three other Midwestern states to raise the federal share of disaster assistance to local governments for flooding from 75 percent to 90 percent.
“I am so very proud of the men and women of the Illinois Army and Air National Guard who played a key role in our valiant fight to protect homes, businesses, roads, bridges and farmland from floodwaters along the Mississippi River,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “As the floodwaters recede and communities begin their recovery process, I’m very pleased that the President approved our request to lighten their burden and speed their recovery.”
On June 24, Gov. Blagojevich joined with the governors of Indiana, Iowa and Wisconsin in a letter urging President Bush to increase to 90 percent the federal government’s share of disaster assistance to state and local governments for their flood-fighting expenses. State and federal teams currently are meeting with local officials in flood-impacted counties to document expenses related to the flood. That documentation will support the state’s request for federal assistance for state and local governments.
The Governor originally activated 200 troops from the National Guard on June 13, and at the height of flood relief efforts, more than 1,400 Illinois National Guard soldiers and airmen were supporting flood relief efforts along the Mississippi River, stretching from the Quad Cities to Alton. Members from the Illinois National Guard worked 24-hour operations supporting sandbagging efforts, as well as maintenance and reconnaissance of levees.
“Once again Illinois National Guard members have answered the call to duty helping our local communities with flood relief efforts along the Mississippi River,” said Maj. Gen. William L. Enyart, Illinois National Guard Adjutant General. “While the National Guard has been called upon for deployments overseas, we are still ready and able to help our local communities in times of need. The Illinois citizen-soldier and airman is a partner in your community.”
Quincy Mayor John A. Spring is thankful for the assistance his community received during the flood fight. “Thank you to Gov. Blagojevich for making available all of the State of Illinois resources to fight the flooding in my community,” he said. “I am very appreciative the Governor called in the Illinois National Guard and all the other State agencies to assist on the levees and help with the City of Quincy sandbagging efforts. And I am extremely grateful to Gov. Blagojevich for being in our community three times to assist in our efforts.”
“On behalf of everyone in our levee district, I want to express my sincere appreciation to the more than 1,000 soldiers and airmen who helped us maintain the levee, as well as to their families who endured hardships while their loved ones were away from home,” said Mike Reed, superintendent of the Sny Island Levee Drainage District. “I’m also very grateful to Gov. Blagojevich for providing the National Guard troops, inmate crews, sandbags and other assets we needed to be successful in this flood fight.”
As the flood fight winds down, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency’s (IEMA) two Unified Area Commands (UACs) are also demobilizing on Tuesday. The UAC in Quincy was established on June 14 to coordinate life safety and resources issues for the flood fight along the Mississippi River, while a second UAC was set up in Alton on June 20. Both were staffed seven days a week by representatives from IEMA, the Illinois Department of Public Health, Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, Illinois National Guard, Illinois Department of Transportation, Illinois State Police and the American Red Cross.
The Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs) in Quincy, Monmouth and Lawrenceville are continuing to help connect flood victims with state assistance programs that can help them begin the recovery process. The centers, which opened last Friday, have been staffed primarily by personnel from state agencies but are expanding tomorrow to include representatives from Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), who will help flood victims with questions about federal disaster assistance.
On Wednesday, IEMA Director Andrew Velasquez III and other state officials will meet with local emergency management representatives and elected officials in Lawrenceville, the Quad-Cities and Quincy to offer guidance for post-flood cleanup and recovery. The state will provide locals with a guide that outlines recommended steps for addressing public health, debris, safety, security, utility restoration and other issues facing flood-impacted communities.
In addition to the 1,400 troops from the Illinois National Guard, other state personnel, assets and support for the flood fight include:
- Serving as the coordinating agency for state response to the flood, IEMA has facilitated the deployment of state assets and personnel from the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) in Springfield. Liaisons from more than 20 state and federal agencies have handled requests for assistance from the SEOC, which has been manned 24 hours a day for much of the past three week.
- As many as 300 Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) inmates per day assisted with sandbagging efforts over the past three weeks, while hundreds more manned round-the-clock sandbagging operations at the Jacksonville Correctional Center and the Pittsfield Work Camp.
- The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) has provided dozens of trucks, trailers, bulldozers, backhoes, end loaders and other equipment to transport millions of sandbags, more than 1,200 pallets of water, numerous pumps and more. IDOT also provided hundred of thousands of tons of gravel to build up roadways along the river to maintain access as floodwater rose and utilized agency aircraft for levee surveillance.
- The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) Conservation Police assisted with flood evacuations, conducted welfare checks and security patrols, delivered meals and medications to flood victims, shuttled utilities crews to flooded areas to restore power, and assessed levee conditions, water levels and flow rates at many critical areas during the flood fight.
- The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) coordinated the procurement of more than 270,000 gallons of water in case community water supplies were compromised by floodwaters, purchased approximately 4,500 tetanus vaccines to support local health departments, and distributed nearly 100 portable toilets and nine hand-washing stations that were placed at 12 locations in Mercer, Calhoun, Pike and Henderson counties.
- The Department of Central Management Services (CMS) procured numerous supplies for responders in the field, including approximately 4.7 million sandbags, coordinated communications needs and provided delivery of equipment and supplies to various sites.
- At the height of the flooding, the American Red Cross, which partners with the state during disasters, supported 13 shelters for Illinois residents, providing a total of 490 overnight stays as of June 30, 2008. To date, the American Red Cross has provided over 83,000 meals and snacks to those affected by the flood and to relief workers. The American Red Cross has also provided nearly 300 cleanup kits to those affected by the recent flood. The Red Cross also provided trained mental health professionals to work with those affected by the floods.
- The Department of Human Services (DHS) provided operational space for the Unified Area Command at the Alton Mental Health Center, provided housing for nearly 200 National Guard troops in Willow Hall, and assisted with staffing of the State Flood Disaster Assistance Call Center and three Disaster Recovery Centers.
- Illinois State Police (ISP) aircraft was used for several aerial inspections of levees and flood-impacted area, while ISP officers provided traffic control, perimeter security for homes and businesses in affected communities, and all-terrain vehicles and boats for rescue and evacuation assistance.
- The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) has been monitoring and providing assistance to public water supplies and waste water treatment facilities, as well as coordinating responses to and cleanup of hazardous material and petroleum spills.
- The Illinois Commerce Commission monitored all electric, telephone, gas, sewer, and water companies in flooded areas for disconnects and hot spots, contacted the railroad industry daily for updates on bridge closures and rail right-of-way washouts and assisted with utility issues related to evacuations.