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Jason Nimmo (left) and his sons, Tyler and James, help fill sandbags in Grand Tower on Tuesday morning as the community has started to stockpile sandbags in case they are needed as the Mississippi River continues to rise. Forecasts call for the river to crest Saturday or Sunday.

The clouds parted Tuesday, but the flood fight continues for many communities in Southern Illinois, with three counties making disaster proclamations because of rising waters.

After receiving upward of 13 inches in some areas this past weekend, large-scale flash flooding occurred throughout the region.

Through the weekend, there was a great effort among emergency managers to handle life safety issues. Roadways were covered, neighborhoods were flooded and some residents were forced from their homes.

With the threat of yet more rain coming later in the week, many communities are trying to catch their breath while still being proactive. Late Monday, Franklin County Board Chair Randall Crocker announced a formal declaration of disaster in the county on the recommendation of the county’s director of emergency management, Ryan Buckingham.

Jackson and Williamson counties released statements of disaster declarations Tuesday.

Buckingham said his recommendation came after emergency crews worked tirelessly over the weekend to help with public safety and property protection concerns. He said while this declaration does not ensure aid from either the state or federal governments, it will help streamline any potential requests for emergency resources in the coming weeks.

Buckingham is asking residents of Franklin County to submit damage assessment reports to the county by calling 618-439-4362. He said these reports will help the county assess how much was damaged and to provide an accurate report to both the state and to the feds about how much damage was sustained.

Franklin County Emergency Management Agency said it would be opening a disaster resource center at 9 a.m. Wednesday in the lobby of the West Frankfort Public Safety Building, at 201 E. Nolen St., which will be open to all Franklin County residents affected by the flooding. The center will stay open until 7 p.m., and local and nongovernmental agencies will be on hand to give information and resources and collect damage reports. Food cleanup kits and other resources will be available from the Red Cross after noon.

Buckingham said Franklin, like many other regional counties, was already cash-strapped before this recent disaster.

“Our county, like many counties in Illinois, we are in a state with our funding (that) we have trouble having enough money to operate on a day-to-day basis,” Buckingham said.

Add this week's flooding to February’s tornado, and those funds get even tighter.

“It’s definitely a financial disaster from the word go,” he said.

With more rain looming in the forecast, Buckingham said there is very little they can do but keep their eyes open for potential problems.

“The only thing that we can do at this point in time is be prepared once again to take on additional water,” Buckingham said. “It’s virtually impossible to predict how the situation is going to look.”

While more rain is certainly the furthest from what he would like, Buckingham said Tuesday there was a silver lining — in West Frankfort, which seemed to take a lot of the damage in Franklin County, the water was receding and roads closed from high water are once again open.

Williamson County Board Chairman Ron Ellis on Tuesday formally declared that a state of disaster exists in Williamson County, according to a news release from the county's Emergency Management Agency.

The director of Williamson County EMA, Kelly D. Urhahn, made the recommendation Tuesday after local officials responded to a variety of issues caused by extreme weather and flooding over the weekend, the news release states.

Several homes in Herrin, Marion, Johnston City and other areas throughout the county have been affected by the disaster, and multiple roadways have sustained considerable damage and continue to remain closed due to high or rising water, Urhahn said.

Additionally, Urhahn said officials throughout Williamson County are monitoring the potential for additional flooding in the region Wednesday. 

Shelter is available for county residents at St. Joseph Catholic Church Family Center and Facility at 600 N. Russel Road in Marion, and flood-damaged homes and future evacuations may be reported to Williamson County EMA by calling 618-998-2123 or 618-694-1741.

Officials ask that the community take the following actions: anyone living in a flood prone area of the County should continue to keep a close eye on the situation and take immediate action if needed; children should not be allowed to play in flood waters; and morotists should detour away from flooded roadways.

Jackson County Board Chairman John Rendleman also signed a proclamation of disaster Tuesday after heavy rainfall this past weekend caused flooding and damage to roads and infrastructure in the county.

According to a news release from Jackson County Emergency Management Agency, there are near record flooding forecasts for the Mississippi and Big Muddy rivers, and additional rainfall expected Wednesday and Thursday threatens additional flash flooding. 

A statement from the Jackson County Sheriff's Office on Monday said the Big Muddy River near Murphysboro is expected to crest early Thursday at 40 feet, however, the current lower levels of the Mississippi River are aiding in draining the Big Muddy downstream of Murphysboro.

Officials from the Jackson County Sheriff's Office and Jackson County EMA met Monday with officials from Grand Tower and levee districts in the county, the release states, and there appears to be no threat of levee failure.

Jackson County opened a facility at 2 p.m. Tuesday at the former Curwood Plant on North 19th Street in Murphysboro for residents who need sandbags for their private property. It will close at dark and reopen Wednesday at 6 a.m. According to a news release from the Murphysboro Emergency Management Agency, residents will have to fill and transport their own sandbags. State Representative Terri Bryant donated five dump truck loads of sand toward the effort.

The Illinois Department of Transportation closed the Cora flood gates on Illinois 3 at the Jackson/Randolph county line on Monday. The sheriff's office was asking motorists to avoid the area and seek alternate routes.

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Spillway Road in western Jackson County is covered by high water from Kinkaid Creek below Kinkaid Lake on Tuesday morning. More rain is forecast Wednesday and Thursday adding to flooding concerns in the region.

Robert Lakotich, street supervisor for Johnston City, reports that cleanup efforts are in high gear, but that flood waters have receded from streets and yards.

10th Street between Market and Chestnut remains closed in Johnston City.

Lakotich said residents evacuated from their homes during the weekend’s downpour have returned to their homes and that their basements seem to have absorbed most of the impact of the flood. He said the city has stepped in and provided dumpsters to residents so they have a place to put water-soaked debris.

The flood waters also caused blow-out along the railroad tracks that pass through the city, depositing a large amount of gravel in a resident’s yard and causing some instability on one of the tracks. Lakotich said the employees for the railroad began immediate repair work on the damage and have since restored that section of track to working order.

Additionally, the street department has had to re-dig many of their ditches and provide temporary fixes for pipes that have washed out. Concern for additional rainfall remains a constant though, as the ground is saturated, and waters in Lake Creek remain high.

Doug Phillips, street department supervisor for the city of Marion, reports that roads and byways in the city remain in good condition after this weekend’s treacherous conditions. Phillips said his crews are in high gear removing debris from creeks and drainage ditches, and are ready for further action if rain continues.

At the height of the flood, Phillips said his department helped evacuate residents from the Marion City Housing Authority on North Marion Street, as well as residents from the Lighthouse Shelter on North Madison Street and a few homes in the area.

Phillips said the aftermath of the storm has left tons of debris at the mouths of tributaries and culverts, but the street department currently has 12 workers, two excavator machines and eight trucks working to clear those areas. It appears that a week‘s worth of maintenance prior to the event has paid off, he said.

Phillips said Marion's roads fared well, and sustained no collapses or washouts. Some damage to the edges of roadways did occur on Old Creal Springs Road and Market Street off Boynton, but on the whole the city’s streets are in great shape, he said. He said the department is staying positive in the face of several weeks of heavy cleanup work.

With flood waters down more than 12 inches since Tuesday morning, streets in the city of Harrisburg are all clear, Mayor John McPeek said. The city remains on high alert, however, as more rain is predicted for the region later this week.

McPeek says the city will continue pumping remaining flood waters, which discharge into the Saline River, in preparation for further precipitation. In addition, he said, the city will continue to monitor the level of the Ohio River. As the Saline River discharges directly into the Ohio, it is expected that ground water levels in the region will be impacted by further rise in the Ohio.

Benton businessman Clint Joiner of F.B. McAfoos & Company in Benton gave Franklin Baptist Disaster Relief Association more than $2,600 of new Stihl chain saws and tree pruning equipment to help with flood cleanup. The tools were donated by regional Stihl distributor, Crader Distributing Company of Marble Hill Missouri. The Franklin Baptist Disaster Relief Association is made up of local volunteers that travel throughout the area, assisting with disaster cleanup.

In Perry County, emergency workers have responded to three calls to rescue motorists who have driven through flood waters. In a news release, Perry County Sheriff Steve Bareis said it is imperative that residents exercise extreme caution during floods. He said never to drive through flood waters and to seek higher ground if an area is prone to flooding. He also said that deer, too, have been displaced by floodwaters and that motorists should be extra cautious.

Jackson County EMA provided the following precautions when confronting flooding: 

  • Get to higher ground.
  • Stay away from flood-prone areas, including dips, low spots, valleys and ditches
  • Avoid flooded areas or those with rapid water flow. Do not attempt to cross a flowing stream. It takes only 6 inches of fast-flowing water to sweep you off your feet.
  • Don't allow children to play near high water, storm drains or ditches. Hidden dangers could lie beneath the water.
  • Flooded roads could have significant damage hidden by flood waters. Never drive through flood waters or flooded roads. If a vehicle stalls, leave it immediately and seek higher ground. Water only 2 feet deep can float away most vehicles.
  • Do not camp or park vehicles along streams and washes.
  • At night, it is harder to recognize flood dangers.

isaac.smith@thesouthern.com

618-351-5823

On Twitter: @ismithreports

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Reporter

Isaac Smith is a reporter covering Franklin and Williamson counties.

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