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May 5, 2011

Midwest Flooding

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Mr. DURBIN. Madam President, hundreds of local first responders, 500 National Guardsmen, and hundreds of volunteers in southern Illinois are working around the clock to try to protect homes and communities from the rising waters of the Ohio River and other rivers in the region.

I have a photo that shows the devastation, which I witnessed personally last Friday. This is an area of southern Illinois, one that has been hard pressed economically, has been struggling, and now is inundated with flooding.

A few days ago when I visited Olive Branch and Cairo, IL, near the southern tip of the State, I saw this flooding firsthand. Homes, barns, and roads were covered by floodwater. Voluntary evacuations have been called for in a dozen Illinois towns, and people are scrambling to find a place to stay with friends and family and shelters to wait out the flood.

They worry about what will happen, when they will get back in their homes, and when the kids will get back to school.

This is another photo which demonstrates the kind of floodwaters that people are struggling with in my part of the world in southern Illinois. My colleague, Senator Kirk, was in southern Illinois over the last couple of days and has witnessed this firsthand as well.

We are both prepared to do whatever we can to help our State and all of the States in the region that have been affected by this terrible flooding. In many cases this flooding is, unfortunately, going to be there for some time.

One of the properties I showed was in Cairo, IL. The water is already waist high and will continue to rise. It can be weeks before people can return home to see what, if anything, they can salvage.

Late Monday night, the Army Corps of Engineers made a very difficult decision. They blew a hole in a levee on the Missouri side of the Mississippi River near Cairo, IL, to relieve pressure on the levee and on other levees along the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. That decision will flood farmland, and that flooding will relieve some of the pressure on the towns and communities,

[Page: S2640]  GPO's PDF
the families and homes which have been threatened by these rising river waters.

The decision to disable the levee at Birds Point in Missouri, as difficult as it was, may have saved the lives of some of the nearly 3,000 people in Cairo, IL, and surrounding communities. There are early indications that the Army Corps plan is starting to work. The Ohio River has already dropped 1 1/2 feet at Cairo since 10 o'clock Monday night. Engineers estimate the water level may go down as much as 7 feet as a result of the release of water at Birds Point.

I want to make it clear to the people of Missouri, to my colleagues from Missouri, that I will stand with them to make certain there is compensation given to those farmers and homeowners who were affected by this decision to open this levee. Their misfortune is going to spare literally thousands of homes and businesses from the inundation of these floodwaters, and we should stand with them just as if they were the victims of the original flooding.

I am thankful for the good news that the river levels are coming down, but the flooding is far from over. Water continues to rise and overtop levees throughout the southern part of my State. My heart goes out to the men and women piling sandbags, to the National Guard--God love them; every time we have an emergency in our State, they are there working night and day--also to the men and women of the Army Corps of Engineers, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, and all of the agencies--Federal, State and local--that are pitching in.

I stand ready with Senator Kirk to help in any way we can in Illinois and here in Washington over the next few days and weeks.

I yield the floor.

(Senate - May 4, 2011)

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