Red Cross starts damage assessment, encourages flood-stricken families to report

Many towns are still under water after flooding along rivers in the Local 6 area.

The Mississippi River crested at the Cairo and Thebes gauges in Illinois Sunday — Cairo at 17.5 feet above flood level, and Thebes at 16 feet above flood level — but it will still be several days until the water level completely recedes. That’s in part because of a breach in the Len Small Levee in Alexander County.

The breach widened to seven-tenths of a mile from Sunday, causing the water level to rise again in parts of Alexander County. But county leaders say they’ve at least seen this water level stay stagnant throughout the day Monday.

While the water levels seem to change day after day, volunteer agencies say they’re starting to change their level of care in these flood-stricken areas.

Susan Baugher has taken charge of feeding almost everyone in town. She says it’s hard work, but when white beans and coffee keep everyone’s heads above water, she says she’s happy to do so.

"They’re still fighting, sandbagging, keeping the water out, keeping pumps going 24 hours a day," she says, "So, it’s tiring on them."

With such a spread, Joe Norris, a volunteer specialist with the Red Cross, says they haven’t even had to send people or food. He says they’ve been mostly a back up for this town.

Norris says this town will need their help soon, however, because they’re changing their response from feeding to assessment.

"Once we have access in more areas we can really go house by house to each home," Norris says. He says that, first, they need people to report back about their potentially damaged property.

"We can’t get to some homes," Norris says. "We don’t know what some of those homes look like. So, we have an idea of what has been damaged, but we haven’t done a house by house assessment."

The Red Cross won’t immediately be able to get people to inspect these flood-ridden homes, but the first benchmark to moving families back in is making sure they can turn on the electricity.

Norris says this area is no stranger to flooding, but every flood is different. "Every situation is different. It doesn’t get less easy when you come home to a home with water in it," he says.

There are several families waiting to hear back from FEMA about potentially buying out their flood-prone property. Norris told me the Red Cross will have no stake in any legal battles about buyout questions.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources says they will no longer check on those families who have built up personal levees around the Len Small Levee. 

The IDNR and ISP will only check on those families when requested.

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