February 03, 2009

Jackson County meeting looks at possible disasters

by Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Jackson County residents can find out what sort of hazards threaten their county during a special meeting this week hosted by researchers from Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Nicholas Pinter, professor of geology at SIUC, is leading a federally funded, multi-institution survey of potential natural and human-made disasters in Southern Illinois. The $1.2 million project will help local emergency officials in 16 counties and one community develop pre-disaster mitigation plans.

Media Advisory

Reporters, photographers and camera crews are welcome to attend the pre-disaster planning meeting set for 6 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 4, at the Jackson County Health Department.

The Jackson County meeting is set for 6 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 4, at the Jackson County Health Department, 415 Health Department Road, Murphysboro.

Pinter will present information on the hazards that historically have threatened Jackson County. He also will show computer-modeling results of potential disasters in the county, including earthquakes, tornadoes, flooding, severe thunderstorms and hazardous materials releases.

Harvey Henson, SIUC geology research specialist, and students, also are working on the project.

The meeting will last about an hour and officials invite the public to hear the presentation, as well as ask questions and give input.

The meeting is the latest in a series the research group is holding throughout the area as part of the Pre-Disaster Mitigation Planning Initiative. Researchers from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis are assisting the SIUC faculty members in the effort.

Officials expect the FEMA-funded effort to last through 2010. The Illinois Emergency Management Agency is administering the project, with SIUC, IUPUI and regional planning commissions pulling together the plans.

Along with Jackson, the counties involved include Williamson, Pulaski, Massac, Union, Johnson, Franklin, Jefferson, Perry, Gallatin, Edwards, White, Crawford, Bond, St. Clair and Clinton. The city of Cairo, in Alexander County, also will participate in the project.

The regional planning organizations involved are the Southern Five Regional Planning Commission, Greater Egypt Regional Planning and Development Commission, Southeastern Illinois Regional Planning and Development Commission, Greater Wabash Regional Planning Commission and Southwestern Illinois Planning Commission.

The project’s goal is to help each county write a FEMA-approved plan that will in turn allow counties to identify possible scenarios and weaknesses and apply for further funding to reduce their vulnerabilities. An example might include shoring up a river levee or building earthquake-resistant fire and police stations.