HARDIN, Ill. – Illinois state officials, including the head of the National Guard and Illinois Emergency Management Agency, met in Hardin Thursday to warn citizens who live along the big rivers that their towns could turn into islands because of rising flood waters.
“Time is of the essence so please start to consider what you would do if you have to leave do it now,” said Illinois National Guard Brig. Gen. Alicia Tate-Naduea, who serves as executive director of the state’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications.
If nothing changes, officials say a 16-inch wall of water will be flowing over the Nutwood Levee in Hardin early next week. That means a main road out of town could flood and people would have to drive an extra three hours to get to their doctors or jobs down south.
“This is going to be one of the longest floods we have going back to 1927. We’re on track for the longest flood,” Tate-Naduea said.
And they feared the only other road going out of Hardin could also go under, making the town an island. They said the same thing could happen to other towns. Some of the 200 National Guardsmen that have mobilized should be showing up in Hardin soon to help.
“We’re looking at life and safety as our first order to support our first responder,” said Brig. Gen. Richard Neeley, commander of the Illinois National Guard
While officials talked, citizens continued their sandbagging operation. A local gas station was bringing in 200 blocks of concrete to protect the business. Some folks were heeding the warning and moving their belongings to higher ground.
“When they upped (the crest) that’s when we decided to get stuff out,” said resident Lisa Snyders. “It’s a pain.”
The levee has been assaulted by flood waters for weeks. The question is will it hold.
“You don’t’ know how good that levee will hold at the top; it’s sandbagged. On the top, it could overtop or it could wash out underneath the bags. It’s just flip a coin every day when you get up,” said Gene Breden, head of the Calhoun County Emergency Management Agency.
Meanwhile, the American Red Cross will begin feeding folks in Hardin Thursday night.