MEREDOSIA – Flooding is beginning to feel like an annual event in some areas along the Illinois River. The governor and head of the Illinois Emergency Management agency visited flood fighting efforts in west-central Illinois Wednesday.
The river is within a foot of topping the levee at Meredosia in Morgan County. As of Wednesday it was at 25.3 feet. National Guard troops have added another five feet of sandbags to the 26-foot levee to ensure that the water stays out of the small town. The efforts continue in Pike and Scott counties across the river as well.
“We have sent National Guard personnel, we have worked with the Illinois Department of Transportation and Department of Corrections to make sure that local municipalities have the resources that they need to be able to accomplish flood fighting” said Alicia Tate-Nadeau, the IEMA chief who toured the area along with Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
Usually in instances of serious flooding there are inmates from state correctional facilities helping to stack those sandbags. COVID-19 has changed their procedures. Tate-Nadeau said now inmates who test negative for the coronavirus fill the bags at the correctional facility before they end up in the hands of National Guard troops, who also test negative for COVID-19.
“So that we knew that they were COVID negative before they came into a community. And then we continued to work on the isolation of the location for the people that were responding,” said the IEMA leader.
The river may be near its peak, but the National Weather Service flood forecast says it will be the weekend before there is much drop in the levels.
The Illinois River flooding in north central Illinois, while receding, will also have an impact on the state’s partial reopening of state parks. It will add further limits to the opening of Starved Rock State Park in LaSalle County.
Bill Wheelhouse is a reporter with NPR Illinois in Springfield.