ELMHURST, Ill. (CBS) – As he toured flood damage in the western and northwestern suburbs, Gov. Pat Quinn declared a state of emergency, and said residents of northeastern Illinois must be prepared for flooding throughout the state over the next few days.
A major spring storm has dumped more than six inches of rain in some areas since Wednesday night, leaving many local rivers, creeks, highways and streets flooded. With more rain expected throughout the day, the water isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
The governor toured west suburban Elmhurst early Thursday afternoon, and also planned to tour flood damage in northwest suburban Des Plaines and west suburban River Forest.
“We have to be prepared, not only today, but over the next several days, for flooding in different parts of our state,” Quinn said.
Standing in the middle of a water-logged street in Elmhurst, the governor was flanked by several west suburban mayors and other local officials just before the rains came down again.
Quinn said officials are concerned that several Illinois waterways — including the Des Plaines River, Fox River and others — are already at record flood levels, and could become even more swelled with storm water through the next few days.
The governor has declared a state of emergency for much of the state, and activated the state’s emergency operations center to help coordinate the response to the flooding.
“We are in a state of emergency in our state. We have water rising all over Illinois,” he said.
The governor noted a officials were forced to evacuate a hospital in Morris, along the Illinois River in Grundy County, due to flooding there. Illinois State Police also helped evacuate two trailer parks, one in far west suburban Sycamore and another in LaSalle County.
“We have to do this together as a family. When we have any kind of emergency, we work together for the common good, we help each other,” Quinn said. “That’s what’s so impressive. All of our emergency workers are working very hard, but we want to make sure that we understand … we’ll get through this, we will prevail, but it’s important that we do this together.”
Quinn cautioned local residents not to go out in flooded areas on their own.
“You have to respect nature. Individuals trying to take on flood waters is not a very good idea. It’s … much better to try and stay home if you can, or at least stay away from these flood waters that can come up at any moment,” he said. “The bottom line is, we don’t want any more rain, but if it comes, we’ve got to understand that … if our state comes together, and works together, we don’t do things that are not prudent, we can get through this.”
The governor has yet to ask the federal government to issue an official federal disaster due to the flooding. He said the focus for now is on containing the flooding, and keeping track of any state and local spending on flood relief for a possible disaster declaration later.
By declaring a state of emergency, however, officials have been able to get access to additional power generators, water pumps, and sand bags to help keep the flooding contained.
“We want to have whatever resources necessary for our state from, whether it be the federal government or other agencies where we can work together to deal with the emergency,” he said.
He also advised homeowners affected by flooding to keep careful records of their expenses to make sure they are eligible for aid from the state.
To help avoid the areas worst hit by the flooding, Quinn advised travelers to use the website gettingaroundillinois.com
Thursday morning, the governor activated the State Incident Response Center (SIRC) in Springfield to assess flooding and severe weather in several areas of the state and expedite assistance that may be needed by local public safety officials to protect citizens.
The SIRC will remain open as long as needed to support local responders.
“I urge everyone to stay alert and avoid flooded areas,” Quinn said in a statement. “Residents should tune in to local TV and radio stations for updated information about any closed routes or evacuations.”