23 Illinois counties now disaster areas; Governor Bruce Rauner tours Watseka

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Tuesday, January 5, 2016
Governor tours flooded areas
Governor Bruce Rauner spent the day touring flooded areas of the state.

WATSEKA, Ill. (WLS) -- Governor Bruce Rauner toured flooded areas of the state on Tuesday. He declared 23 counties a disaster.

Most of the disaster areas are in central and southern Illinois. The declaration makes state resources, such as sandbags, pumps, trucks and inmate crews, available for cleanup.

"It's the first step in the process for us requesting federal disaster relief. We're going to try to get the federal government to reimburse losses as a result of this flood," Rauner said.

In Watseka, which is about 90 miles south of Chicago, the governor met with residents dealing with the flood aftermath. While the floodwaters have receded, sheets of ice were left behind.

In Watseka, the floods and the debris left behind are all too common an occurrence.

"We just survive," Terry Lease said.

Not everyone whose home was evacuated last week can return to the small rural town. A handful of homes were condemned. Others will have to move out while repairs are made.

"This time we got it up to the doorway coming in within about three inches of coming into the actual doorway. The time before was up to the bottom of the porch," Lease said.

Peter Kokinias has had to shut down his restaurant three times in eight years due to flooding. His insurance doesn't cover losses sustained during the closures, he said.

"I basically had to put my life savings on the first flood just too keep my investment afloat so I didn't lose everything," Kokonias said. "Right now we have to go order sandbags for the next time. Be ready for when it happens again."