Representatives of FEMA are touring western Illinois to determine if portions of the region qualify for a federal disaster declaration. They are finding homes and businesses with significant damage after months of severe weather and flooding.
Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker issued a state disaster proclamation in late July for the 36 “most-affected counties,” including Henderson, Knox, Hancock and Adams Counties in western Illinois. But there has not been a federal designation, which would make it easier for residents and businesses to access FEMA resources.
Spokesperson Jann Tracey said FEMA now has teams conducting preliminary assessments in 20 of the counties. She said the teams also include representatives of local and state emergency management agencies.
“Once all of that data is compiled, it’s given to the state,” said Tracey. “From there, the state can determine if the extent of the damage is beyond the capability of the state and local governments to recover.”
Tracey said if the state chooses to request a federal designation, FEMA would then re-evaluate the information collected to see if an official declaration is warranted.
The current assessments focus on private homes and businesses.
Tracey said some of the damage has already been repaired while others remain. She said the teams are finding cracked retaining walls and foundations as well as damaged water heaters, carpet and drywall in previously flooded basements.
“We came across people in Henderson County, for example, who were displaced from their homes or they had to use a boat to get to their homes for 2-3 months,” said Tracey.
Tracey said this situation is not typical for FEMA, given the length of time of the disaster.
“Such a long period of time is very, very unusual,” said Tracey. “You know, generally, we are looking at something that is a few days or a couple weeks, but this is unusual.”
Tracey said the teams will likely remain in western Illinois for a few more days before moving on to other parts of the state to continue the preliminary damage assessments.