The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.

Preparations For Spring Flooding In County Underway

by Dessa Rodeffer, Quill Publisher/Owner

Plans are being made a lot earlier this year in case of Spring flooding or a levee break in Henderson County in hopes to avoid mistakes made in the big Flood of 2008, organizers said.

"We've learned some things," said Coral Seitz who has been appointed by the county board as the 2011 Disaster Coordinator.

Seitz along with County Board Chairman Marty Lafary and county board members called the Thursday 2:00 "Flood Meeting" to first ask town leaders, "Are you going to fight the flood, or are you not?" if it comes.

Seitz said she wanted only one person in each community as head of Disaster planning for their community and she would only get her information from that one person.

She wanted them to have a back-up person if that person can't be there, and than another back-up in case the second person cannot be there and that is all," she said.

Besides a go-to person, and if they are fighting the flood or not, Seitz said they each needed to know how long would they fight it and what their limit is to hang it up, due to the danger.

Keeping people safe is their number one priority, she said.

Seitz said you need someone to take care of all the records, bills, receipts, "every tiny thing" she said.

You need someone in charge of keeping track of how many sandbags came in, the date, and the time.

You need to keep track of volunteers, when they came in, the date and time, and when they left.

"Ask what their intentions are when they come in. Are they planning to work one hour or two hours or what?"

"If it is as drastic as 2008, we need to have all the documentation down because each hour given to help fight the flood by a volunteer goes toward matching funding."

Seitz said they must document if they brought a shovel or a 4-wheeler, or whatever. "We need all the ingredients," she said.

Home-owners and farmers in harms way need to make their plan in advance and ask themselves when is the time they need to get their implements out of the shed or their home items out of the garage or the house.

Seitz who lives along the Mississippi River in Oquawka said she knows when the water gets to a certain height she will move everything out of the garage. She also knows what height the river will get that will force her and her husband out completely without making it dangerous to do so.

Seitz said that Highway 34 falls back on the state on when or if it will be closed.

County Board Chair Marty Lafary explained that they have been working on the Flood of 2008 since that time and they are still working to straighten out issues there.

"We are going to try to do as much as possible in house," Lafary said.

Lafary said they do not want people along the levees anymore. It's too dangerous.

So, they are planning on having three central points to do sandbagging, such as the high school, Oquawka track, or some place like that.

"We haven't talked to the school yet," he said, but it will be just as easy to do it this way and it will keep everyone out of harms way."

Alan Ferguson from the Henderson County Highway Department who has been rebuilding the levees said the levees are now pretty close to where they were pre-flood of 2008.

He feels confident the levees are safe up to 19 feet, but over that, 20- 21 feet they are questionable and he is not sure they will hold.

"Overall they are in better shape than in 2008."

That year Marty said they had the plastic and sandbags on top but it wasn't as solid and snuck in under that.

Marty said that Coral Seitz is going to organize the Flood disaster this year to be the in-between the board and FEMA.

It was pointed out that this time they should know in advance about how much time you have to get the gas and electricity turned off.

"Everyone was great in 2008," Marty said. "The Health Dept., the churches, the utility companies, I.D.O.T, and volunteers."

Marty said there will not be a mandatory evacuation at 19 feet but county residents will all be notified that it is at 19 feet and we don't think it is safe.

Seitz said, there main purpose is to save lives and keep everyone safe.

Seitz was asked if their is a certain level she will mandate they move out and she explained that it is more than the flood stage that is considered, it is how much is left to come down the river above us, and is it raining making the levees soggier.

"It's not one pat answer," she explained but there's a lot of factors that go into it."

Marty said, "Alan is comfortable with 19 inches but after that is questionable."

Just south of 34 is the weakest point as they are working on the railroad bridge. Marty said if it breaks this time, it will move downhill toward Gulfport and 34 in a matter of seconds, not hours.

"If that burst first there could be a 24 foot wall of water heading down hill," he said.

"In 2008, it broke south of Carthage Lake. Actually it was more ideal where it broke last time because it took more time," Lafary said.

After 19 feet, Lafary said they would notify everyone that he feels it is unsafe but it is up to Superintendent Grimm to decide if he should allow his school buses on those roads at that stage.

If flooding looks probable, they will be setting up an EOC (Emergency Operation Center) along with the three designated places where sandbagging will be going on.

We will have forklifts that will pick-up pallets of bags and move them to where it is needed by semi's, Marty said.

"The D&R, State Police, and County Sheriff will take care of our highways," Marty said. Ambulance services will help and Burlington runs their ambulances into Gulfport as needed.

They said each vicinity was in charge of their own towns, and areas, but the county wanted to know their plan.

"We can best do this when everyone knows what direction each one is going in," she said.

"We will do a couple of weeks of sandbagging rather than a couple of days."

Marty asked, "Before you start a big project, coordinate it with Coral to get approval of IEMA.

The Henderson County Health Department will NOT be able to give away tetanus Shots this year due to the government's failure to provide them, Mary Reed said. Tetanus vaccines are good for ten years, she noted.

Marty suggested to everyone to listen to the one in county who know the levee.

"If these guys who know the levee move out, "I'm following them," he said.

Marty reminded everyone again, "If you cook for someone have the ingredients.

"If you use your tractor have the date, the time and the engine hours."

Supt. Grimm said his staff at West Central School could make 1600 calls in 2 minutes. Give us a list of emails and we will be glad to let you use our system to notify people of danger and updates.

On March 28 at 10 a.m., IEMA and the State will have representatives here to give information on how they help.

Sheriff Steve Haynes said that is department will work together with others to keep the area secure.

Scott Walters said, "We've learned a lot but waiting and wondering is the hardest. But I found if you see sandbagging at the Lock and Dam, something is coming."

Reports for flooding in the area give a 93% chance of major flooding in Henderson County with a 40% chance the Mississippi River could reach 24 feet.

Lafary said, we will be ready to fight the flood this time but 99.9%, we will do ourselves.