State: Rauner hopeful National Guard not needed

About 20 Illinois National Guard soldiers are in place in parts of southern Illinois responding to areas hit hard by floods, but the governor hopes they won’t be needed. Governor Bruce Rauner ordered the soldiers to the Marion Readiness Center New Year’s Day to help local officials secure flooded areas, conduct health and welfare checks, and mitigate flood damage.

On a tour of several areas hit by floods Sunday the governor said people have been asked to evacuate, especially where the Mississippi River continues to cause significant problems — but some people don’t want to leave their homes.

On a tour of several areas hit by floods Sunday the governor said people have been asked to evacuate, especially where the Mississippi River continues to cause significant problems — but some people don’t want to leave their homes.

“We have had the National Guard on standby. I hope we don’t need them, at this point it doesn’t look like we will, incase we have to extract people and do some rescues. Right now it doesn’t look like we have to do that but again we’re asking people to honor requests for evacuation, that’s critically important.”

The governor’s office says the soldiers will have a Blackhawk helicopter with hoisting capabilities that could be used for evacuation efforts, if needed. The governor gave kudos to the state’s prison system for assisting in other efforts.

“Officers, as well as inmates in the Department of Corrections, have done a fantastic job creating sandbags and helping load them and stack them.”

Meanwhile the governor toured flooded areas in Alton, Pontoon Beach, and Evansville New Year’s Day and areas of central Illinois, including hard hit Christian County, Sunday. A dozen counties in southern Illinois have been added to the state’s disaster declaration.

Riverton Mayor hopes for disaster declaration

Though the area hasn’t been declared a disaster after recent flooding, one mayor in Sangamon County hopes that declaration comes soon to provide financial assistance in the cleanup. Riverton Mayor Tom Raider showed Governor Rauner areas of his town hard hit by recent floods in hopes of getting guidance and maybe even a declaration of disaster. Raider said Sunday that declaration could go a long way to shore up the unforeseen payroll costs in battling flood waters.

“All the damage that’s coming out in the payroll and what we’ve had to use funds is coming out of our general funds for this.”

Raider says there were crews manning pumps around the clock over the New Year’s holiday with around 20 homes in the community of 3,400 residents affected by the floods. Governor Rauner says he’s surveying damage and is in talks with the federal government.

“Obviously this is an assignment of the extent of the damage and the severity and we’re in discussions with leaders about that.”

Over the weekend the governor visited several communities, including hard hit Christian County, where he noted the highest death toll. So far, at least 10 people have died because of flooding in Illinois.

Government and non-government volunteers step up in cleanup

The state is working with non-government volunteer organizations to help in cleanup of recent floods. That’s according to the Illinois Emergency Management Agency Director James Joseph. Joseph appeared with Governor Rauner in several central Illinois communities impacted by flooding to tour the damage and assess what resources could be available. However Joseph says with the cold setting in there are dangers in the cleanup, like rapid onset hypothermia, and the state is working with some volunteer groups to spread that message.

“We do have some non-governmental volunteer organizations that are providing cleanup assistance in some communities as well so we’re going to continue working with them to get the safety message out to the community as well.”

Meanwhile local governments are starting to assist in cleanup, even some volunteering their time. Riverton Mayor Raider says crews in his village have been assessing damage and doing welfare checks. Raider says the county sheriff even sent some volunteers.

“The Sangamon County Sheriff’s Department brought out volunteers yesterday on their bus that we could go around to the homes and if anybody had stuff in their basement they needed lifted out whatever they’d go down and pull that stuff out for them.”

The governor said there could be a variety of state resources — like sandbags, pumps and heavy equipment — available to help communities respond and recover from flooding.

Illinois News Network

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