Governor Pat Quinn today declared Fayette and Vermilion counties state disaster areas, bringing to 15 the number of Illinois counties to receive the designation after several tornadoes ravaged the state on Sunday. Other counties declared state disaster areas by Governor Quinn include Champaign, Douglas, Grundy, Jasper, LaSalle, Massac, Pope, Tazewell, Wabash, Washington, Wayne, Will and Woodford counties.
"The initial damage reports continue to pour into the State Emergency Operations Center, illustrating just how far-reaching these deadly storms were," Governor Quinn said. "Illinois will recover and we will rebuild our communities, but we expect the total number of homes damaged and destroyed will exceed 1,500. That's why it is so important for those who have been impacted in our hardest-hit areas to document damages and save their receipts in order to qualify for future assistance."
The state disaster declaration makes available a wide variety of state resources that can help affected communities respond and recover from the storms. The state of Illinois has personnel and assets that can be mobilized to help local government officials with disaster recovery, including such things as trucks, heavy equipment to remove debris, communications equipment and assistance with security and other public safety issues.
On Monday, Governor Quinn personally inspected the damage in some of Illinois' hardest hit communities: Washington, Diamond, Gifford, Brookport and New Minden.
Governor Quinn also urged people whose homes were heavily damaged or destroyed to stay with friends, family, at a local shelter or in a hotel, and not in their vehicles. State officials have heard reports of people sleeping in their vehicles, which can result in serious health effects or death if carbon monoxide builds up in a running vehicle.
"You cannot see or smell carbon monoxide, but at high levels it can kill a person in minutes," Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck said. "We want to help people stay safe and healthy as we pick up and rebuild in communities around the state. Do not stay or sleep in your car if your home has been damaged. Instead, take advantage of the shelters and other resources available."
Carbon monoxide is produced whenever any fuel such as gas, oil, kerosene, wood or charcoal is burned. People who have lost power and are heating their homes using an appliance that burns fuel should make sure the appliances are working properly and are being used correctly. Hundreds of people die accidentally every year from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by malfunctioning or improperly used fuel-burning appliances.
Symptoms of mild to moderate carbon monoxide poisoning may resemble winter flu and can include headaches, dizziness, nausea and lethargy. Higher levels of exposure can cause fainting, confusion and collapse. If exposure to carbon monoxide continues, death can result.