Rauner declares Vermilion, Iroquois, Kankakee counties disaster areas

Rauner declares Vermilion, Iroquois, Kankakee counties disaster areas

DANVILLE — On Friday, Gov. Bruce Rauner's office declared Vermilion, Iroquois and Kankakee counties disaster areas due to flooding earlier in the week.

The declaration will ensure state support to communities in the counties, according to the announcement. All three counties have been affected by flooding from heavy rainfall on Monday and Tuesday along rivers and in low-lying areas that forced residents to evacuate their homes and caused destruction of personal property as well as public infrastructure like roads and government buildings.

Rauner visited flooded areas of Watseka on Thursday night and talked to residents there who were displaced by the flooding.

In Vermilion, county board Chairman Mike Marron also announced Friday that he signed a proclamation declaring the county a disaster, mentioning significant personal and public property damage as a result of the flooding. He announced that the document will be submitted to the Illinois Emergency Management Agency in hopes that Vermilion will receive disaster relief from its federal counterpart.

In Vermilion County, the North Fork, Middle Fork and Salt Fork rivers were all at high levels by Wednesday morning. All three merge into the Vermilion River, which flows through Danville and into the Wabash River near Cayuga, Ind., and that river was several feet over flood stage on Wednesday as well. The flooding affected houses along all three rivers, prompting evacuations with assistance from the Vermilion County Sheriff's Department on Wednesday morning and others continuing voluntary evacuations throughout the day. Some homeowners reported more than a foot of water in their residences.

At 3 p.m. Friday, the Vermilion County EMA issued a flood warning until just after 9 a.m. Saturday in the county, stating that at 2:15 p.m. Friday, the Vermilion River was at 22.1 feet, more than 3 feet over flood stage, with moderate to minor flooding. The river was expected to fall to below flood stage by early Saturday morning.

With more rain in the forecast for southeastern and southern Illinois this weekend, Rauner also directed the Illinois EMA to activate the State Emergency Operations Center in Springfield to coordinate state personnel and assets needed to help local officials keep residents safe and protect critical infrastructure.

IEMA is receiving weather-forecast updates and river-stage predictions, and agency staff are staying in close contact with local emergency-management officials throughout the state.

The state Department of Natural Resources has provided two boats to support flood patrols in Watseka, work crews with the Department of Corrections are installing floodgates in Hardin County in southern Illinois, and the Illinois Department of Transportation is handling delivery of the pumps, hoses and sandbags.