Rivertowns along the Ohio and Mississippi rivers have been inundated with rain that has left most areas covered with moderate to major flooding.
Last week as of press time, the Ohio River was supposed to have crested at Brookport at 55 feet on Tuesday. Over the weekend, the crest was raised to 56 feet. However, due to the heavy precipitation that moved into the area Sunday and Monday, the river forecasts have been changed.
As of press time, the Ohio River is expected to crest at Brookport on Friday at 57.5 feet.
Initially, the crest had been increased to 60.5. However, following the breach of the Birds Point Levee Monday night, the crest was lowered.
According to National Weather Service's website, 52 feet is considered moderate flooding and 57 and beyond is classified as major flood stage.
Historical Crests at Brookport Lock and Dam include:
• 62.30 feet, on Feb. 2, 1937
• 55.10 feet, on Jan. 13, 1950
• 53.60 feet on March 12, 1997
• 53.30 feet on April 2, 1975
• 53.20 on Feb. 15, 1950
As soon as water levels began rising, people from the community jumped in to begin sandbagging various areas of the county. The City of Metropolis began filling sandbags across from the city's pool, but later moved the site to East Fifth Street, at the site of the old Clark School Building.
A second sandbagging site was set up at Massac County High School, where high school and junior high students have filled thousands of sandbags. On Monday, a third location for sandbagging was established at Massac County Fire Station on North Avenue.
Hundreds of people both young and old have been volunteering to fill sandbags, deliver them and assist in making make shift levees to protect homes and property. One of the biggest operations was at Woodhaven subdivision near the intersection of U.S. 45 and Devers Road.
Thousands of sandbags were constructed into a levee to hold back the water and protect homes, but it was reported on Monday there was a breach in the levee.
Several families living in close proximity to the river were busy sandbagging while other families opted to evacuate their homes before water invaded their home.
Residents needing a place to stay in Massac County have two options:
Waldo Baptist Church, 6970 Waldo Church Rd., which is an official Red Cross shelter. Late Monday evening, it was reported the shelter was full.
An additional shelter was opened at Mt Sterling Cumberland Presbyterian Church, but is not an official Red Cross site.
The City of Metropolis has stated the Metropolis Community Center would be opened as a shelter if the need arose.
Other Illinois shelters currently open include:
• Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, 7168 Old Highway 13, Carbondale, IL 62901
• Shawnee Community College, 8364 Shawnee College Road, Ullin, IL 62992
Red Cross encourages anyone who needs help, or knows of anyone who needs help, to call 1-800-RED CROSS. The Red Cross provides immediate assistance with food, clothing, shelter and other critical needs in the wake of disasters and emergencies. Flood victims may also contact Little Egypt Service Center in Murphysboro at 618-529-1525 or Southeast Missouri Chapter in Cape Girardeau at 888-335-9471.
One of the first businesses to close its doors was Harrah's Metropolis Casino. The casino closed on April 24.
"The safety and security of our employees and customers is paramount in situations such as these and we took all necessary measures to ensure an orderly and safe closure of the facility," said Mark Osterhaus, the casino's general manager. "At this time we do not have an estimate of when the facility will re-open and additional communications will go out when that information becomes available."
During this time of closure, the Harrah's Metropolis leadership team announced that all employees would continue to receive full pay and benefits, including tips and tokes. All employees are encouraged to lend their efforts to local volunteer opportunities to assist the community in cleanup efforts until the property re-opens.
Many other businesses throughout Metropolis and Massac County have been affected by rising floodwater, with business owners sandbagging.
Tuesday morning businesses near the intersection of 12th Street and U.S. 45 were closed including McDonald's, El Tequilla, Linwood Motors and Frank Farmer Chevrolet, all of which had signs of floodwater present.
The Metropolis Public Library, as of press time, remains open under regular business hours. According to library personnel, genealogical information has been moved upstairs.
Sam Thompson, owner of Southgate Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, said residents were being evacuated to facilities in Harrisburg and Carbondale. Also evacuating was Metropolis Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, which will be housing its residents in its sister facilities in McLeansboro and Carbondale.
Massac Unit One School system was affected Monday, as all district schools were closed. "We are taking it day to day. We have already canceled for tomorrow (Tuesday). We had originally planned on getting back to school Wednesday. Recent developments with the revision of crest levels have put those plans in jeopardy," said Bill Hatfield, Unit One superintendent.
Brookport Mayor Judy Askew, she attended an Illinois Emergency Management Agency briefing Monday at noon and noted Brookport's problem is not with the flood wall. "It is with keeping water away from our lagoon," said Askew. "If it overflows, then sewage will be in all our houses. So be understanding if we have no more sandbags for you. We must save the pumping stations and lagoon first," said Askew.
There have been reports that emergency personnel has rescued at least two families by boat.
According to Metropolis Postmaster Greg Rednour, the post office will be holding mail for those affected by flooding and said mail may be picked up at the post office.
Local lawmakers encourage volunteers to help towns where flood threat is imminent
With the serious threat of severe flooding looming and rain continuing to fall, state Rep. Brandon Phelps is working with other local lawmakers state Rep. John Bradley, state Rep. Mike Bost, state Sen. Gary Forby and state Sen. David Luechtefeld to encourage local residents to volunteer as the Mississippi and Ohio rivers continue to rise.
"We are desperately looking for anybody who wants to help volunteer in Golconda, Shawneetown, Old Shawneetown, Harrisburg, Carmi, Brookport, Metropolis, Cairo, Karnak, Olive Branch, Thebes, Tamms, New Haven, Junction and Grand Tower," Phelps said. "We need volunteers in these towns to continue sand bagging because the rivers are still rising."
As of press time, the Army Corps of Engineers did follow through with plans to breach Birds Point levee to alleviate the strain the Ohio River is currently putting on the floodwall at Cairo, a move that would spare the city of Cairo from being leveled. As of press time, there was one more levee yet to be breached.
The Cairo floodwall can handle up to 64 feet of water; currently the water has risen to 61.05 feet as of this morning eclipsing the 1937 record of 59.5 feet. Sources expect the river to crest on Wednesday at 61.5 feet and stay at that level until Friday.
The office of Gov. Pat Quinn released a statement Monday regarding Illinois ongoing response to flooding in Southern Illinois.
"The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has announced its decision to crevasse the Birds Point-New Madrid Levee, an important step to ensure public safety as we respond to this crisis.
"Today, Gov. Quinn met in Cairo with Gen. Walsh, who is leading the efforts of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The governor continues to monitor the situation and remains in frequent contact with Gen. Walsh, as well as state and local officials working on the ground in flood-affected areas.
"On Saturday, the governor sent a letter requesting that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers complete its plan to crevasse the Birds Point-New Madrid Floodway, on behalf of thousands of people across southern Illinois, including the 3000 citizens of Cairo.
"Illinois' preparation began weeks before the crisis, and the governor continues working to fulfill the needs of those carrying out flood-response efforts.
"While visiting Cairo today, Gov. Quinn announced the call up of 100 additional National Guard personnel, sending nearly 450 service members to flood-affected areas in Illinois.
Additionally, the administration today authorized nurses and other medical professionals to assist with an additional range of duties during the crisis to ensure that health and safety concerns of those affected by the flooding are being met."
More information about the state's flood response and flood safety is available on the Ready Illinois website at www.Ready.Illinois.gov. For information regarding insurance claims related to flooding, visit the Illinois Department of Insurance website at http://insurance.illinois.gov/HomeInsurance/flood.asp or call 866-445-5364."
"We need help," Bradley said. "There is no way to describe the amount of water we are already dealing with. This is a catastrophe and any and all help is needed."
The state has already provided hundreds of thousands of sandbags to local communities and has ordered one million additional sandbags. Inmates at the Tamms, DuQuoin and Dixon Springs correctional facilities have filled more than 80,000 sandbags, while inmate crews have been assisting with sandbagging in several communities. Other resources coordinated by the state include portable toilets, bottled water, life vests for emergency workers, generators, trucks for transporting assets, pumps, hoses and light stands.
"We have neighbors who are hurting and need help," Bost said. "We encourage everyone who is willing and able to volunteer tying, loading or stacking sandbags, or helping carry families' possessions to dry land. Whether you can lend a hand to a neighbor across the street or across the county line - southern Illinois needs to pull together."
"I was pleased that the Mayor of Cairo [Judson Childs] took steps over the weekend to evacuate residents and protect their safety," Forby said. "As water levels rise, cities near the river are facing some of the flood's most devastating effects and they need the people of southern Illinois to come together now, more than ever. I am encouraging all residents in the area to volunteer any way they can."
"In times of crisis like this one, we often find that our fellow citizens rise up to help their neighbors," Luechtefeld said. "I would encourage interested volunteers to contact their local ESDA officials and they will help coordinate your efforts."
For more information, contact Rep. Phelps' constituent service office at 618-253-4189 or reach out to the American Red Cross Little Egypt Network at 800-272-2984.