U.S. Senator Dick Durbin wants Illinois to clean up their act, as the drought extends into winter with Chicago expected to break the record for consecutive days without snow. Charlie Wojciechowski reports for NBC News at 5 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 10, 2012.
U.S. Senator Dick Durbin is concerned about the lack of precipitaion throughout Illinois. Its causing a drought that's lowering the levels of Lake Michigan and the Chicago River.
"We need to take a step back and take an honest look at what's happening in this world that we live in," Durbin said Monday during a press conference staged by Lake Michigan's shoreline, where water levels are two inches below the record low. "If there is no measureable snow today, I believe it will set a record here in Chicago for the longest period of time without measurable snowfall."
Presently, Chicago is tied with the record of snowless days at 280, but if less than a tenth of snow falls today then the Windy City will break the record. While most Chicagoans are enjoying a break from the blistering cold and snowfall typical of December, the lack of precipitation indicates Illinois is still in a drought.
Durbin announced the results of an investigation into whether Congress could provide the state with funding if the drought continued..
"Last year, as severe weather events took a greater toll, I held a hearing to examine whether or not the federal government is ready for this to be the new normal," Durbin said. "The answer is no.”
Durbin said Congress would be discussing the $60 billion in federal aid requested by the East Coast to help recover from Hurricane Sandy. He thinks the actual cost will be much higher than what most of Congress is expecting.
The senator then expressed concern that Congress will not be able to provide adequate financial relief in the future, like the drought in Illinois.
Currently 90 percent of Illinois is considered "abnormally dry" in the wake of this summer's drought. Durbin estimates it could cost as much as $12 billion in Federal aid to farmers and ranchers, whose crops have dried up.
Additionally, water levels in both Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River have reached historic lows, raising concerns for shippers and industries transporting good through the canals.
During the press conference, Durbin discussed possibly having to shut down the locks for safety and health reasons if water levels continue to dip.
"If the water levels go down another 6 inches between now and the spring, we could be faced with that decision," said Lt. Col. James Scheimer, the Deputy District Commander of the U.S. Amy Corps of Engineers, who also spoke at the press conference.
Durbin said his team is monitoring the levels closely and will hold off on making any definitely decisions until its necessary. In the meantime, he asks Illinois residents to be mindful.
"We've got to literally clean up our act."