The Telegraph Updated 5:39 pm CST, Wednesday, January 1, 2020
SPRINGFIELD – Abnormally moist ground conditions and unseasonably higher river levels in the upper Midwest could lead to a considerable risk for repeat flooding this spring, according to the National Weather Service.
Illinois officials are encouraging Illinois residents to consider flood insurance before the next flood occurs as part of its ‘Resolve to be Ready’ campaign for 2020.
“Anywhere it rains, it can flood,” said Acting IEMA Director Alicia Tate-Nadeau. “You do not have to live in a river community to experience the devastating effects of flooding.
On June 7, 2019, the Illinois River at Hardin set its second highest crest ever at 38.2 feet, about four feet lower than the 1993 record. That same day, Grafton set its second highest crest ever on the Mississippi River at 35.17 feet, three feet below the record set there in 1993.
Two days later, the Mississippi River posted its second highest crest ever in Alton at 39.01 feet. The record crest of 42.72 feet was set in 1993. Flooding also caused problems along the Missouri River in spring 2019.
Eight months later, parts of the Missouri River are slightly above flood stage at a time when river levels traditionally run low, according to the Associated Press. NWS hydrologist Mark Fuchs of the agency’s St. Louis office told the AP that he also is concerned that soil is extremely saturated in northern states such as Wisconsin, Minnesota and the Dakotas, and the long-range forecast offers a strong possibility of a wetter-than-normal winter.
“We’re worried about rivers in general, primarily the Missouri and Mississippi for the spring,” Fuchs said. “We’ll see how the winter plays out.”
Both the Mississippi and Missouri rivers dipped below flood stage by early fall, “then they turned around and went right back up in October with more rain in both basins,” Fuchs said.
“For both rivers, there really hasn’t been much chance to recover,” he said.
The NWS is scheduled to release more details on this year’s flooding projections on Feb. 13, Feb. 27 and March 12. According to the NWS, based on current conditions the risk of flooding is near average to much above average for 2020, with the greatest threats in northern Illinois along the Rock, Fox, Kishwaukee and Pecatonica rivers.
Fuchs said soil moisture levels in many places to the north were at the 99th percentile in late fall.
“If you have rain, it’s supposed to go into the ground,” Fuchs said. “Well, there’s just not room in the soil to accept rainfall or snowmelt.”
Adding to the worry is the weather service’s December-February forecast which shows a significant chance of above-normal precipitation in the upper Midwestern states that feed water into the Missouri and Mississippi rivers.
River flooding was the biggest disaster to impact the state in 2019, state officials said. Flooding occurred in more than 33 counties, affecting 2.1 million residents. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) denied Illinois’ request for Individual Assistance. But the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) has provided more than $19.7 million to Illinois homeowners who submitted flood insurance claims.
“What is important to remember about flood insurance is that this policy takes 30 days to take effect,” said Tate-Nadeau. “That is why it is important to purchase and review your plan today in order to protect your family for the future.”
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources administers the NFIP in Illinois, working with river communities to limit new development in flood risk areas, protect existing development from flooding and encourage residents and business to insure property, according to IDNR Director Colleen Callahan.
It really is a win-win for both the community and policy holders.,” said Callahan. “The program not only protect homes and businesses in the event of a flood, but also helps mitigate perennially flooded areas, reducing the risk of flooding in the future.”
Nearly 90 percent of Illinois communities participate in the NFIP. A few communities have not adopted local floodplain regulations and have not enrolled in NFIP. In these communities, private flood insurance is available through licensed insurance agents.
“Flooding is the most frequent and costly disaster in the U.S. with average flood insurance claim payments that can surpass $100,000 depending on the disaster,” said said Illinois Department of Insurance Director Robert Muriel. “So private flood insurance can help fill the gap for those without NFIP coverage and offer higher amounts of coverage.”
He said IDOI recommends consumers check their eligibility for NFIP coverage. He added IDOI insurance analysts are available to answer consumers’ questions and give tips on purchasing private flood insurance.
Flood Insurance Rate Maps can be found online at http://msc.fema.gov. For more information on NFIP, visit https://www.fema.gov/cis/IL.html. For more details about flood insurance, visit https://www.insureuonline.org/insureu_special_flood.htm.