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May 12, 2003

Governor declares state of disaster for 14 central and southern counties hit by tornadoes
State commits resources and provides assistance to counties responding to the disaster; State will apply for federal assistance

SPRINGFIELD, ILL. – Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich today declared 14 central and southern Illinois counties state disaster areas based on damages resulting from the tornadoes, severe storms and flooding that battered the state over the past several days.


"This past week, tornadoes hit several parts of our state and caused devastating damage and destruction.  Worst of all, two Illinoisans lost their life in these storms and many more were injured.  Their families are in my prayers and in those of the people of Illinois," Blagojevich said. "I have committed all of the state’s available resources to help the 14 counties affected rebuild their communities and the lives of their citizens."


On May 6, tornadoes struck in Massac, Alexander, Pope and Pulaski counties and again in the early hours on Sunday, May 11, in Tazewell, Adams, Brown, Fulton, Greene, Hancock, Mason, McDonough, Schuyler and Woodford counties.  Preliminary reports indicate that the storms resulted in two fatalities, 49 injuries, 178 homes destroyed and 140 homes damaged.


Illinois state agencies assisted the four southern counties affected by the first storm without incurring the extraordinary costs that would trigger the need for an emergency declaration.  While the damage in those counties did not meet the criteria to qualify the state or counties for federal reimbursement, the state is working with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Small Business Administration (SBA) officials to provide direct assistance to individuals living in these counties.


FEMA and SBA officials are today touring the four affected counties in southern Illinois to assess the damage.  The state also has requested that FEMA and the SBA visit the central Illinois counties impacted by Saturday’s tornado as well.


The impact of Saturday’s tornado created the need and the opportunity for the governor to issue a disaster declaration, which enables the state to assist local government and state agencies with the extraordinary costs incurred as part of the response to emergencies.  Due to the cumulative damage caused by the two sets of storms, the state also may qualify for federal reimbursement aid to the state and the counties for costs incurred.  However, the governor made it clear that the state and local counties may still not receive federal reimbursement.


As in southern Illinois, the state is already pursuing federal aid for those individuals in counties affected by the storm in central Illinois.  Obtaining federal assistance for individuals is critical because the state, by law, is prohibited from using emergency state funds to provide aid to individuals.


In both southern and central Illinois, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA), the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), Illinois State Police, and the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) have assisted with clearing debris, coordinating emergency response, providing security and working with local officials to help communities respond and recover.  Specifically:


·                    More than 20 IDOT trucks, end-loaders and other heavy equipment are being used to help clear and remove debris, close roads where necessary and assist with barricades. 


·                    More than 100 inmates and IDOC staff are helping local officials with cleanup efforts.


·                    State Police is providing extra security to supplement local law enforcement and is helping coordinate traffic to keep drivers safe.


·                    IEMA is coordinating the state’s emergency response and has staff in every significantly impacted area to ensure the state is working hand-in-hand with local officials. 


The state is also working closely with the Red Cross to make sure that the residents of the 14 affected counties receive food, shelter and other basic services.


“As we talk to people who have been impacted by these two storms, we’ve noticed something interesting,” Blagojevich said.  “Are some of them discouraged?  Of course.  Are they upset?  Naturally.  But they’re not giving up.  They’re strong.  They’re resilient.  And they are ready and they’re eager to get to work and to begin rebuilding their communities and their lives.  To me, that’s the true spirit of Illinois.  And so no matter what hand we’re dealt, no matter how hard the road ahead seems — that spirit, along with a lot of hard work, will get us through.”

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