URBANA, Ill. – Illinois River flooding in 2019 was so extreme that residents of Calhoun County found themselves isolated during the worst of the event. With roads closed and the ferries that typically provide transportation not operational, travel in and out of the peninsula was impossible. For municipal leaders and community organizers across the state, 2019 flooding presented a host of challenges that tested the capabilities of their emergency response systems and the plans that support them.

Municipal employees and community organizers interested in learning how to support families, businesses, and local organizations during weather- and climate-related events are invited to attend a free online webinar at 12:00 p.m. Thursday, March 26.  Preparing for Extreme Weather a webinar hosted by Illinois Extension's Local Government Education program, is intended to stimulate dialogue among municipal officials, community partners, and professionals across the state. 

Illinois State Climatologist Trent Ford will discuss the science and impacts of climate change as they relate to water in Illinois. Additionally, Sally McConkey, Illinois State Water Survey engineer and hydrologist, will explain where to find floodplain information and how to interpret a floodplain map.

“Extreme weather events have a cascading impact on a community and the surrounding areas,” says Carrie McKillip, a community and economic development educator for Illinois Extension and chair-elect of the Extension Disaster Education Network. “There is an obvious immediate impact of something like a tornado or a flood, such as houses that are destroyed, businesses that can’t open their doors, and school systems that have to manage altered schedules. But it’s the long-term recovery effort that tests the resiliency of a community and its residents.”

According to the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, 2019 was the fifth consecutive year that the U.S. experienced ten or more extreme weather events where the economic impact of each exceeded 1 billion dollars. With a disproportionate number of those events impacting the Midwest region, it seems clear that time spent preparing for weather-related disasters improves a community’s ability to respond and recover from adverse events, says McKillip.

Through its Community and Economic Development team, Illinois Extension maintains a commitment to helping Illinois communities develop both the capacity and capability of leading transformative planning and economic development efforts. While extreme weather events may not be frequent, their unexpected nature can cause a crippling impact.

In the case of the flooding across the state in 2019, Illinois Extension brought agencies together to address the immediate needs of these Illinois residents.

“Extension provides both facilitation and education during weather-related events,” says Duane Friend, Extension educator specializing in energy and environmental stewardship. “In addition to coordinating agency responses, we educate families and businesses on next steps of dealing with safety and economic issues.”

To attend this free webinar, please register online. University of Illinois Extension provides equal opportunities in programs and employment. If you need a reasonable accommodation to participate in this program, please contact Nancy Ouedraogo at esarey@illinois.edu.

About the Speakers

Trent Ford is the current Illinois State Climatologist and provides weather and climate data, maps, and information for Illinois farmers, government agencies and policymakers, and citizens. Ford evaluates past climate events, monitors current conditions, and studies possible future climate change. He serves as Illinois’ authoritative spokesperson on climate science. A native of Roanoke, Ill., Ford was an assistant professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Resources at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Illinois State University and master’s and doctoral degrees from Texas A&M University.

Sally McConkey, head of the coordinated hazard assessment and mapping for the Illinois State Water Survey, is an Illinois registered professional engineer and a certified floodplain manager. She manages the Coordinated Hazard Assessment and Mapping Program (CHAMP). The CHAMP staff is composed of engineers, GIS specialists, and outreach staff. The ISWS is a Cooperating Technical Partner (CTP) with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and in that role, CHAMP performs hydrologic and hydraulic flood studies, Digital Flood Insurance Rate Map production, delegated review of Letter of Map Revisions, and community outreach. She has a master’s degree in Civil Engineering from University of Illinois and has been with the Illinois State Water Survey (ISWS) since 1984.