UPDATE: 7:55 p.m.: President Barack Obama has declared an emergency exists in Missouri because of flooding.
Obama signed the declaration on Saturday. It allows federal aid to be used to help state and local response efforts to storms that began Dec. 22 and flooding that continues.
It also authorizes the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate disaster relief efforts.
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon had asked for the declaration.
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UPDATE: 6:36 p.m.: Herb Simmons of the St. Clair County Emergency Management Agency cautions people against returning to their flood-damaged homes, but he acknowledges it’s hard not to.
For those who do, though, one of the most important things to do is check when they last received tetanus shots, he said, because people don’t know what’s in the water, and they could get cuts or scratches that might become infected.
The St. Clair County Health Department recommends that people get shots if they haven’t had one for more than five years, Simmons added.
Simmons said he has been fielding countless calls from people with questions about possible financial reimbursement as a result of the flooding, but it could be a while before the federal government decides whether Illinois qualifies for assistance.
The St. Clair County EMA is currently surveying and compiling a report on the extent of the damage to submit to the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, Simmons said.
Patti Thompson, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, said it is in the very early stages of the reporting process for damage assessment.
There are two types of federal assistance, she explained: individual and public.
For individual assistance, it’s likely that several hundred homes would have to be destroyed or have experienced major damage. Then, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, better known as FEMA, would work with local and state officials to make a more formal assessment that would guide the state in its decision to apply for federal funds.
For public assistance, flood damage in Illinois would have to reach a threshold of $18.1 million, which, because that figure is based on Illinois’ population, is a high amount, Thompson said. If the state meets that amount, then individual counties would have to cross their own thresholds of assessed damage to qualify for funds.
Municipalities could then use federal money for reimbursements up to 75 percent of expenses for things such as debris removal, repairs to public property and overtime pay, she said.
Thompson couldn’t provide a prediction about whether Illinois will reach the $18.1 million mark because municipalities are early in the reporting process, and it is difficult to assess damage when not all of the water has receded, she said.
Twelve counties have been declared as state disaster areas so far, though more could be added to that number. The public can seek more information about the flood and better plan their next steps at ready.illinois.gov.
Simmons, of St. Clair’s EMA, said he expected the rivers to recede below flood stage in the next few days if there is not more heavy rain.
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UPDATE: 5:45 p.m.: Video of levee breach in Alexander County, taken during an Illinois State Police flyover:
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UPDATE: 3:45 p.m.: During a stop Saturday at Carlyle Lake, Gov. Bruce Rauner praised the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the agency’s flood-control operations there.
“The lake is really performing a great function. It’s risen 15 feet and it’s kept a lot of the rest of this area from getting flooded and causing a lot more extensive damage,” Rauner said.
Rauner also urged people to leave Alexander County homes threatened by levee failures in southern Illinois.
Rauner said some residents are leaving, but others are staying put. He says the situation is especially “life-threatening” because of the risk of hypothermia from cold temperatures.
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UPDATE: 12:05 p.m.: The Red Cross has opened another shelter, this one in Alexander County.
The American Red Cross of Eastern Missouri, coordinating with emergency managers, has opened the shelter in Ullin for those affected by flooding. Red Cross volunteers will provide a place to sleep, food and medical needs for all persons displaced due to the effects of the current weather.
Those who need emergency assistance can call (314) 516-2700.
The Ullin shelter is at Shawnee Community College, 8364 Shawnee College Road, Alexander County.
The Red Cross also has a shelter at Nameoki Methodist Church on Pontoon Road in Granite City.
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UPDATE: 11:25 a.m.: Photos from rescue in New Athens area:
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UPDATE 10:50 a.m.: Facebook post by St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern:
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UPDATE 10:30 a.m.: Gov. Rauner and U.S. Rep Mike Bost today in Grand Tower:
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UPDATE 8:45 a.m.: Drone footage from Chester area:
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UPDATE 8:40 a..m.: Mississippi River navigation update from Coast Guard:
The following Coast Guard sectors have issued closures or restrictions:
- Upper Mississippi River closed between mile markers 184 and 179 near St. Louis, Missouri.
- Illinois River closed between mile markers 0 to 50 from Hardin, Illinois to Grafton, Illinois.
- Restrictions on Mississippi River from mile marker 110, near Chester Illinois, to mile marker 34, near Billings Landing, Missouri.
- High water safety advisory on Lower Mississippi River from mile marker 869, near Caruthersville, Missouri, to mile marker 303 near Natchez, Mississippi.
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While river levels are going down, the water level at Carlyle Lake is still going up — to a near-record level.
The lake is now predicted to crest on Monday at 458.5 feet. The level as of early Saturday morning was 458.18 feet.
The record, set in 2002, is 459.8 feet.
Flooding at the lake has forced the closure of some areas, including Eldon Hazlet State Park. The entrance road to Hazlet floods at these levels.
Gov. Bruce Rauner, continuing his two-day tour of flooded areas in Southern Illinois, was scheduled to be at Carlyle Lake at 1:50 p.m. Saturday. An advisory from his office said he would tour the lake and the dam.