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Fighting the Flood and Coronavirus at the Same Time

State of Illinois
Flood waters near the top of the levee along the Illinois River near Meredosia.

Flooding is beginning to feel like an annual event in some areas along the Illinois River.  The governor and head of the Illinois Emergency Management agency visited flood fighting efforts in west-central Illinois  Wednesday.

The river is within a foot of topping the levee at Meredosia in Morgan County. As of Wednesday  it was at 25.3 feet. National Guard troops have added  another five feet of sandbags to the 26-foot levee to ensure that the water  stays out of the small town.    The efforts continue in Pike and Scott counties across the river as well.

“We have sent National Guard personnel, we have worked with the Illinois Department of Transportation and Department of Corrections to make sure that local municipalities have the resources that they need to be able to accomplish flood fighting” said Alicia Tate-Nadeau, the IEMA chief who toured the area along with Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

Usually in instances of serious flooding there are inmates from state correctional facilities helping to stack those sandbags. COVID-19 has changed their procedures. Tate-Nadeau said now inmates who test negative for the coronavirus fill the bags at the correctional facility before they end up in the hands of National Guard troops, who also test negative for COVID-19.

“So that we knew that they were COVID negative before they came into a community. And then we continued to work on the isolation of the location for the people that were responding,” said the IEMA leader.

The river may be near its peak, but the National Weather Service flood forecast says it will be the weekend before there is much drop in the levels.

The Illinois River flooding in north central Illinois, while receding, will also have an impact on the state’s partial reopening of state parks. It will add further limits to the opening of Starved Rock State Park in LaSalle County. 

Harvest Public Media’s reporter in Springfield, Ill., comes to Harvest with a background of covering state government and rural issues. For the past eight years, Bill was general manager of public radio station WUIS in Springfield. Prior to that, he spent a decade as State Capitol bureau chief for Illinois Public Radio. During his time in the Illinois statehouse Bill won several awards including Best Investigative Reporter from the Associated Press and Best Statehouse Beat Reporting from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors in 2004. Bill also spent eight years as News Director at WIUM public radio in Macomb, Ill., and is a past president of the Illinois News Broadcasters Association.