The Grand River in Grand Rapids is swollen after record rainfall this month. It’s expected to crest at just under 25 feet on Sunday; just nine inches shy of the 100-year flood level.
Amber Jones and Kelsey Caverly work downtown near the city’s fish ladder. They joined dozens of people who came down on their lunch break Thursday to check it out.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen it like this,” Jones said. She’s lived in Grand Rapids her whole life. “I’ve seen the typical, there’s always a little bit in the spring, but nothing of this volume.”
The women point to the river banks from a lookout point near the fish ladder. “I mean you can usually stand by that 'no fishing' sign and now it’s practically underwater,” Caverly said.
Flooding has forced evacuations in the Grand Rapids suburb of Wyoming. There the mayor has declared a state of emergency. The American Red Cross has opened a number of shelters to help.
Several roads are inaccessible. Police have had to rescue some drivers whose cars stalled in the water. The Rapid bus service has had to implement detours.
The road near Mike Seibold’s house is covered with water. But he watches people drive past the barricades anyway. He’s lived in Grand Rapids for 42 years, and says he's never seen flooding this bad.
“Yeah, this is about the worst,” Seibold said.
He watches a Jeep pass by, creating a wake near our feet. “There’s another fool thinking ‘yeah I got a 4-wheel drive,'” he chuckled.
Seibold’s got two sump pumps running in his basement.
"I bought another one just last week when I had about three inches of water in the basement. One pump couldn’t keep up with it so I got the second one going,” Seibold said.
The city is making preparations at its wastewater treatment plant; adding a four-foot wall of sandbags.
During a press conference this afternoon, Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell said he’s confident the river won’t go over the city’s flood walls, which are designed for a 100-year flood plain.
“The real concern is not the water coming over the floodwalls and washing us all away. The real concern is that… storm sewers are just not built to handle the capacity that’s coming out of the clouds right now,” Heartwell said.
The Kent County Health Department and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality have issued a no-contact advisory for the Grand River until further notice.
“The (Grand River) drains an enormous part of the southern part of the state. So it’s not just the water that’s falling up in Plainfield Township we’re worried about, it’s all the way over the Jackson where it begins,” Heartwell said.