Politics & Government

Rain this week won’t affect river crest but forecasters ‘nervous’ about upcoming flood threat

Illinois Governor visits flooded Grafton

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker visited Grafton, Illinois located at the convergence of the Illinois and Mississippi rivers. The Mississippi is expected to crest Thursday in Grafton at 35.5 feet, less than 3 feet from the historic crest in 1993.
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Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker visited Grafton, Illinois located at the convergence of the Illinois and Mississippi rivers. The Mississippi is expected to crest Thursday in Grafton at 35.5 feet, less than 3 feet from the historic crest in 1993.

National Weather Service officials say rain in the forecast over the next several days in the metro-east is not expected to affect the Mississippi River’s expected crest on Thursday, but are “nervous” about the next weeks and months.

The river is expected to crest at roughly 46 feet, about 3 feet short of the record-holding Great Flood of 1993. Meanwhile, rain is forecast every day through Monday in the metro-east.

Mark Fuchs, a senior service hydrologist with the National Weather Service’s St. Louis branch, said if the river wasn’t already so high, the roughly 2 to 2.5 inches of rain that’s expected to fall this week might have had a larger impact.

“We’re not expecting it to be big, but there is a chance there could be some rise in the river,” Fuchs said. “It would be minor.”

The Mississippi, as of Tuesday, had reached roughly 44.6 feet at St. Louis. Cities like Alton and Grafton currently are staving off rising flood waters as Thursday’s crest draws near. The river is expected to crest Thursday in Grafton at 36 feet.

Fuchs said the current river crest date and level take into account current and forecast precipitation. He said the forecasts are largely subjective based on rainfall in the area and upriver.

He said the Mississippi’s forecasted crest on Thursday isn’t expected to change in timing or height.

However, he said it will be important to remain vigilant after the crest, as more flooding is possible in the coming weeks.

“We’re watching this week’s rainfall forecast but we’re also keeping an eye on the week after that and the weeks beyond that because the river is so high,” he said. “It doesn’t take all that much excessive rainfall to make life miserable again.”

Currently, Fuchs said, the Missouri River basin is taking on more water than usual and rain in the plains to the north could make that situation worse. In St. Louis, he added, the Missouri River plays a large part in feeding the Mississippi, making more flooding in the coming weeks possible.

“That could cause problems not only along Missouri but also along the Mississippi in our area,” Fuchs said. “We’re nervous about the weeks and months ahead.”

He said right now that flooding is just a possibility, but it’s something the National Weather Service is keeping an eye on.

“We’re hoping we get a bit of a break after this crest and we might — we certainly could — but we are at least nervous about the potential of the storm complexes in our area and out in the plains.”

For the time being, roughly 20 National Guard members and area officials are monitoring the levees protecting Madison, Monroe and St. Clair counties. The guardsmen are patrolling the levees around the clock looking for possible weaknesses and for trespassers

Several peoples were arrested, giving citations or escorted off levees over the weekend and on Monday, including three juveniles who were found throwing sandbags into the river.

More soldiers on the way

Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who toured the flooded area of Grafton on Tuesday, activated an additional 200 members of Illinois’ National Guard to assist with flooding specifically in Southern Illinois.

Task Force 2, the unit of soldiers freshly deployed, will help with current flooding issues and possible future flooding and is made up of soldiers from military police companies based in Springfield, East St. Louis, Fort Sheridan and Bartonville.

Overall, 400 members of the National Guard have now been deployed statewide.

“The people of Illinois are terrific,” Pritzker said while in Grafton as he commended first responders, volunteers and agency leaders. He acknowledged the upcoming forecasts, saying, “We have a long road ahead of us.”

Quelling rumors

In St. Clair County, officials with the Emergency Management Agency are working to put down rumors about a levee breach in Cahokia. According to the agency’s Facebook page, there are no indications of problems on levees throughout St. Clair County.

More Roads Close

Near Madison, West Chain of Road Road at the Chain of Rocks Canal Bridge has been closed. Barricades will be placed at the approach to the road.

How to help

A number of people in the metro-east are coming together to help flood evacuees in whatever ways they can.

Helping Strays of Monroe County has coordinated a temporary housing shelter for the pets of the flood evacuees in Monroe County.

Brittany Reilly, volunteer coordinator for Helping Strays, said the organization’s efforts started on Sunday and could continue at least through Wednesday and maybe longer. If there is a levee breach and or significant flooding, Reilly said the organization would be looking for additional volunteers.

The rescue site is at the Monroe County Fairgrounds at 4177 Illinois 156 in Waterloo.

Volunteers are needed on Wednesday. Call 618-939-7389 for more information.

“We are also asking people to donate (bottled beverages, snacks and baked goods) for the volunteers. For those who cannot donate time, shelter officials will take monetary donations,” Reilly said. She said the organization is also asking pet owners to bring their pets food from home if the can.

Asked about her emotions as she works through this event, Reilly said, “Amazing. I think it’s amazing. People don’t have to leave their animals at home to basically die. The community is coming together. A bunch of people from around the community are coming together to help. It is amazing to see.”

Restaurant donations

Some restaurants like White Castle, Stingers in Cahokia and Dairyland in Dupo provided food to volunteers fighting the flood waters, including National Guardsmen who were brought in to assist with the efforts.

White Castle donated two crates of 30 hamburgers to the volunteers on Monday. Brenda Lumia, district supervisor, confirmed White Castle’s involvement. “We are happy to help where we can. And, if we can be of more assistance, we will be happy to help.”

BND reporters Hana Muslic and Carolyn P. Smith contributed information for this article.

More than 20 Illinois National Guard members patrolled the levees in St. Clair County in search of trespassers and possible warning signs of levee failure. 200 National Guard members have been deployed to the flooded region all together.

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