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National Guard sandbagging along Illinois River as flood water rises

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Flooding has returned to the Tri-States and the Illinois National Guard has been deployed along the Illinois River for sandbagging efforts in Meredosia on Saturday.

"We're basically just raising up the levee and making it higher in case the floodwaters get that high," said Illinois National Guard Sgt. Shane McNamara, one of 15 soldiers addressing the rising Illinois river in Meredosia.

They teamed up with locals like Ethan Myers

"If they get a lot of rain up north, you know, a three inches of rain could do a lot of damage," Myers said.

First Lt. Andrew Cox said next to the flood, the other thing on everyone's mind is COVID-19.

"We're doing what we can to stay in CDC guidelines and prevent any spread of it, obviously we don't want any of our soldiers to be affected by that, especially when we're trying to get a mission done," Lt. Cox said.

Emergency management officials said one of the challenges this year is they can't rely on a big turnout from local volunteers.

"The state's been very supportive in getting us the Illinois National Guard to help us. These guys have done great work for us. But normally we'd have community efforts to sandbagging," said Jacksonville-Morgan County Emergency Management director Phil McCarty.

He said they're working to keep people safe by having those who are older or vulnerable stay home.

"We always love help," McCarty said. "For years I've begged for people to come out and help me volunteer and now I have to change my message."

He said they're taking the north levee to around 30 feet to make sure it'll be prepared if more rain follows what's already expected.

Myers said those who live nearby are glad to have the help.

"I'm thankful that we had the football players and stuff we had yesterday in the guard, you know, the National Guard today," he said. "Every little bit helps."

National Guard officials said there are currently around 50 soldiers active in the area who will also be conducting sandbagging operations around Valley City and the Big Swan Levee.

Frank Healy

Multimedia Journalist at WGEM

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