- Published: Wednesday, December 30, 2015 04:08 PM
Local, state and federal officials continue to monitor and respond to the flooding situation in southern Illinois.
Jackson County is among the counties in a disaster declaration issued by Gov. Bruce Rauner on Tuesday. Flood warnings for the area remain in place, and residents and volunteers in western Jackson County closer to the Mississippi River have been working to secure levees and fill sandbags.
More than 770 homes and businesses are in danger of being flooded. Sheriff’s deputies are working 12-hour shifts and are working to keep an eye on evacuated homes. Numerous roads remain closed because of high water.
At 11 a.m. today the water at the Mississippi River in Chester north of Jackson County was 42.2 feet. Flood stage is 27 feet. The river is forecast to crest near 48.5 feet by early afternoon Saturday, then fall.
At the Big Muddy River near Murphysboro, the water was at 32.1 feet at 9 a.m. Wednesday; flood stage is 22 feet. The river is expected to crest near 35 feet Friday afternoon. Officials are monitoring a nearby mobile home park.
People in need of help evacuating or finding shelter can call the Jackson County Emergency Management Agency at 618-684-3137. Volunteers who wish to help can call the Jackson County volunteer coordinator at 618-534-9212. Volunteers are expected to provide their own clothing, gloves, food and other supplies.
In Union County, voluntary evacuations were being encouraged in flood-prone areas. Levees are being monitored, and the sheriff’s office has indicated it will activate tornado sirens in the event of a levee break.
Farmers in low-lying areas have been trying to empty their grain bins before the water rises and ruins the grain. Union County deputies are patrolling areas where evacuated homes are located.
And in Alexander County at the southern tip of Illinois, the bridge between Cairo and Wickliffe, Ky., will close at midnight because of high water, according a notice posted by the Cairo Police Department. The U.S. Corps of Engineers is monitoring and preparing for flooding in and around Cairo. A flood warning remains in place for the area. At 11 a.m. today, the water was at 45.5 feet; flood stage is 32 feet. The forecast calls for the river to crest near 48.5 feet Sunday, tying the crest record set in August 1993.
Tips for those dealing with flooding:
1. Don’t be afraid to evacuate. It’s better to be safe than sorry, and it doesn’t take long for water to surround a home. Authorities are urging residents in low-lying areas to have important possessions packed and ready in the event of an emergency evacuation.
2. Under no circumstances should you drive through standing water. Flood water is powerful, even if it appears to be standing still. It’s difficult to determine the depth, the road could be washed out underneath, and flowing water can sweep a vehicle off the road, putting your life and the lives of your passengers in danger in a matter of seconds. Follow emergency officials’ advice: turn around, don’t drown.
3. Keep informed about closed roads in your area, and plan out alternative routes so you can avoid flooded or potentially flooded areas.
4. Avoid standing water, especially if there are downed power lines nearby.
5. Be sure to monitor updates from local law enforcement, emergency management and transportation officials.