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Emergency Management Professor: IL Emergency Managers in Various Modes of Flooding Response

April 25, 2013


MACOMB, IL – Emergency managers in at least 44 Illinois counties are dealing with what some are calling the "Great Spring Floods of 2013." According to Western Illinois University Emergency Management Assistant Professor Jack Rozdilsky, the widespread flooding in the state has local emergency management agencies in different stages of response mode.

"Right now, out of the state's 102 counties, 44 of them have been declared emergency areas, all due to flooding. While floods in the springtime in Illinois are a common disaster—which means we have the people, materials, resources and the plans to deal with the inundating—various areas in Illinois have received up to five times the amount of the average level of rainfall, and this has been occurring over the last 15 days, so this is becoming a significant series of events," Rozdilsky explained. (For a list of the counties, see "Governor Quinn Requests FEMA Help with Flood Damage Assessments" at www.illinois.gov/ready/Press/Pages/042213a.aspx.)

According to a press release on the U.S. Geological Survey's website, "[F]ield crews are measuring record flooding on rivers and streams across most of Illinois." (see www.usgs.gov/newsroom/article.asp?ID=3570)

"The U.S.G.S. has 250 river gauges they use in Illinois to measure stream heights for flooding in order to gather scientific data, and of those 250, 53 are above flood level," he said.

Rozdilsky—who teaches students majoring and minoring in emergency management in the WIU Department of Health Sciences—noted, most likely, Governor Quinn will make the formal request for disaster relief for Illinois to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in the very near future. He added, in regard to the natural disaster of flooding, the emergency management courses at Western cover two main areas.

"We address both the science of flooding and the management steps that emergency managers would take to coordinate efforts for flood fighting and damage assessment," he explained.

Because the flooding is so widespread, he described the various modes emergency managers are operating in right now.

"What I've seen happening, in the northern part of Illinois, they have been able to shift from flood-fight mode to clean up and damage assessment for preparation of the federal disaster relief aid request, which we expect to come from Governor Quinn sometime next week. In this part of the state and south of here, many are still actively engaged in trying to make sure the levees are not comprised and are making plans to deal with the situation if the levees do become so. And if we get another round of rains up in the river basins—in Wisconsin, Minnesota and northern Illinois—it could start the process over again," Rozdilsky said.

According to the April 24 Peoria Journal Star (PJS), Peoria—whose riverfront is situated on the Illinois River—has experienced record-high water levels this week. A text description of a video embedded on the PJS's website states: "Floodwaters began a slow, inch-by-inch retreat Wednesday in inundated Peoria, offering hope to residents who watched helplessly as the Illinois River reached a 70-year high and swamped their homes and businesses." (see www.pjstar.com/video/x715747072/Peoria-flooding-on-Wednesday)

"We're at the fifth wettest April in recorded history for Peoria," Rozdilsky added. "In Peoria this week, the river gauge on the Illinois River was a record 29.4 feet; the highest previously recorded level before this week was 28.8 feet, which was in 1943."

Western's emergency management program started in 2007 and is the first one offered by a public or private university or college in Illinois. It remains the only one in the state, and Rozdilsky pointed out that it is one of a very few programs like it in the country.

"There are probably about 25 institutions that offer programs similar to ours at the bachelor's level. There are many other programs that offer certificates and online training, but our program at Western focuses on comprehensive emergency management, as opposed to just training in specific procedures," he said.

For more information, contact Rozdilsky at JL-Rozdilsky@wiu.edu.

Posted By: Teresa Koltzenburg, University Relations
Phone: (309) 298-1993 * Fax: (309) 298-1606