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Pritzker activates National Guard to respond to severe flooding in Southern Illinois

Pritzker activates National Guard

Gov. J.B. Pritzker activated the National Guard to help with flood fighting efforts in the state along the Mississippi and Illinois rivers.
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Gov. J.B. Pritzker activated the National Guard to help with flood fighting efforts in the state along the Mississippi and Illinois rivers.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker activated the National Guard on Thursday in response to flooding in the state, which has affected parts of Southern Illinois and the metro-east.

On Wednesday, Madison County Board Chairman Kurt Prenzler had asked for the National Guard to help with flood-fighting efforts.

The Mississippi River has been rising due to recent heavy rainfall in other parts of the Great Plains. On June 4, it’s expected to crest and reach water levels second only to those of the Great Flood of 1993.

Earlier this month, Pritzker signed a proclamation declaring a disaster in 34 counties, including Madison, St. Clair, Jersey and Randolph. The declaration makes a wide variety of state resources available and sets in motion the ability to receive federal assistance.

“If there’s a river in Illinois, it’s flooded,” Pritzker said during a press conference Thursday.

About 200 guardsmen will be on standby for evacuation missions and to continue monitoring affected areas over the next few weeks as the weather is expected to become more intense.

The National Weather Service predicts that the river will crest at 39.3 feet in Alton next week, 3.4 feet under the 1993 record.

On Thursday, Prenzler said he was grateful for the governor’s quick response and that the levee districts in Madison County were prepared for anything.

Metro East Sanitary District installs flood gates on Water St. in Cahokia. The Mississippi River is predicted to crest on June 4th at 46 feet in St. Louis, at that level water will be at the base of the flood gate protecting Cahokia and Dupo area.

“The levees have received a lot of investment and attention over the last decade, so at this point, they’re in very good shape,” he said. “This is what everyone has worked for.”

The Alton Visitor Center announced Thursday that it would be closing for the first time in 26 years due to flood waters.

“This is an unprecedented flood and one that just won’t give up,” said Brett Stawar, President and CEO of the Great Rivers and Routes Tourism Bureau.

In Monroe County, Sheriff Neal Rohlfing issued a voluntary evacuation request this week as sandbagging efforts continued in towns like Valmeyer, which was forced to move two miles up a bluff after devastation from the 1993 floods. Rohlfing said that if the river reaches 46 feet in St. Louis, as it’s expected to next week, all residents who live in the floodplain will be asked to evacuate.

Alicia Tate-Nadeau, the acting director of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, told media Thursday that the flooding situation in Calhoun County is dire. There, the river is expected to crest at 40.4 feet at Hardin next week—just 2 feet under the 1993 record.

A potential historic river crest has sandbaggers reporting to locations along the rivers in Southern Illinois. In Valmeyer, at the Rock City Development, volunteers prepared thousands of sandbags for use in Monroe county and surrounding communities.

The county declared a state of emergency May 7 and, this week, asked for more volunteers to help fill sandbags.

The Metro East Sanitary District installed floodgates between Cahokia and the East Carondelet/North Dupo area, closing off part of Water Street. The St. Clair County Emergency Management Agency posted on Facebook that inmates from the Sheriff’s Department’s work program were on hand filling sandbags to be ready for rapid deployment.

The Missouri Department of Transportation announced Thursday afternoon that it would anticipate closing the Missouri 51 Chester Bridge across the Mississippi River by noon on Saturday. The bridge links Missouri 51 in Perry County, Missouri, to Illinois 150 in Randolph County.

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Joseph Bustos is the state affairs and politics reporter for the Belleville News-Democrat, where he strives to hold elected officials accountable and provide context to decisions they make. He has won multiple awards from the Illinois Press Association for coverage of sales tax referenda.
Hana Muslic has been a public safety reporter for the Belleville News-Democrat since August 2018, covering everything from crime and courts to accidents, fires and natural disasters. She is a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s College of Journalism and her previous work can be found in The Lincoln Journal-Star and The Kansas City Star.