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Floodplain Managers from Across Illinois Gather in Watseka

WATSEKA, IL – The call for assistance went out February 25, 2018, while water was still surrounding many homes in Watseka, Illinois. Much of Watseka flooded as the Iroquois River and Sugar Creek reached record levels. No stranger to floods, Thom Webster, floodplain administrator and building official for the City of Watseka, called the Illinois Rapid Assistance Flood Team (RAFT) when he realized that hundreds of homes in his small community of 5,000 would be damaged. It was Webster’s second call-out to RAFT in three years of the program’s existence. The RAFT Certified Floodplain Administrators wasted no time coming to the assistance of Watseka.

“RAFT enables Certified Floodplain Managers to come together and help each other when a colleague is overwhelmed by the need to get substantial damage assessments completed quickly,” said Paul Osman, Illinois’ National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) State Coordinator.

Osman who helped design the RAFT program said the local administrator simply contacts the Illinois Association for Floodplain and Stormwater Management (IASFM) and the call for volunteers goes out. “All this occurs long before federal assistance can arrive and usually while the flood waters are still in the community,” Osman added.

This is the fourth large-scale flood Watseka has experienced in 10 years. In fact, across the nation, rain and flooding events are intensifying. Record floods are increasingly common. Most seasoned floodplain managers will tell you how important it is to get out to the flooded areas as quickly as possible and to document the damages before they are cleaned up and property owners begin to rebuild. States like Illinois have learned that immediately after a flood is the best time to make positive changes and reduce future flood risk.

“Completing damage assessments and strict compliance with the substantial damage regulations are the key to flood loss reduction,” Osman said. “Failing to get damage assessments completed quickly only magnifies the difficulty.”