Metro-East News

Alton hopes to begin flood cleanup, but weekend rain could hamper those efforts

Sen. Durbin discusses flooding in Alton, climate change

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, on June 11, discussed on the Senate floor the flooding in Alton, as well as along the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers. He also discussed the affects of climate change.
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U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, on June 11, discussed on the Senate floor the flooding in Alton, as well as along the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers. He also discussed the affects of climate change.

Almost a week after the Mississippi River’s crest, officials are beginning to eye damage assessment and cleanup in some of the metro-east’s areas that were hardest hit by flooding.

In Alton, where the Mississippi River crested at 39.01 feet Sunday, Madison County officials expect cleanup efforts to begin next week.

Mary Kate Brown, deputy director with Madison County’s emergency management agency, said that will hinge on whether the river keeps dropping, and with rain expected over the weekend, there is a chance it could be further delayed.

“We’re finally going to get a chance to clean up and get into recovery mode,” Brown said. “In Alton, which is our hardest hit area, they’re gearing up to start cleanup efforts next week. It will be low enough for them to start that cleaning effort.”

If all goes to plan though, Brown said crews will be able to start assessing the damage from the flood and taking stock of what steps the county will need to take in the coming weeks and months.

“After the water goes down we’ll be able to see if there’s any damage to public infrastructures like sewers and roads,” Brown said. “We tabulate all of that information and that’s what we end up submitting to FEMA for federal reimbursement.”

That tabulated information includes resources used to fight flooding like manpower, sandbags and more.

The Alton Telegraph reported Wednesday that Madison County has deployed more than 125,000 sandbags, the county’s sandbagging machines, more than 500 tons of sands, all of the county’s emergency management vehicles and its Unified Command Post to combat flooding.

Portions of Alton still remain under water, however. As of Friday, the Mississippi River at Alton was still at 36.2 feet, in major flood stage.

The descent of the river could slow over the weekend, according to the National Weather Service, due to forecast rain for almost the entire weekend.

The National Weather Service has forecast 1-3 inches of rain to fall from Friday to Monday over the already flooded areas of the St. Louis region. This will keep the Mississippi, Missouri and smaller rivers in flood stage longer, despite crests that were hit this past weekend.

The agency said there is some uncertainty of when certain locations will fall below flood stage due to the precipitation expected over the weekend and next week. However, the rain is not expected to rise the river’s level at this point.

Brown said Madison County is still stressing that the public stays away from the levees, as they have had water on them for more than 95 days in a row. The worry is that the levees are saturated.

In St. Clair County, Emergency Management Agency Director Herb Simmons said things are on a good trajectory. He said the levees have had some small “pinhole” sand boils over the past week, but nothing that has concerned his agency.

There also have been a few cases of trespassing on the levee and a case where a man put a boat into the river. He said some citations have been given out and others have been escorted out of the area.

Simmons stressed that until otherwise stated, the public needs to stay off the levees. Currently, every levee against the Mississippi River in Southern Illinois has had water on it for more than 90 days.

National Guard troops continue to monitor the levees for issues while keeping an eye out for trespassers in both Madison and St. Clair County. More than 400 soldiers have been deployed throughout Illinois. Two-hundred of which were sent to the metro-east specifically.

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Kavahn Mansouri covers government accountability for the Belleville News-Democrat, holding officials and institutions accountable and tracking how taxpayer money is spent.
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