Developing
5:40 pm
Mon April 22, 2013

Grand River reaches peak, but floodwaters remain

Update 5:38 p.m.

Grand Rapids city officials are feeling a “sense of relief” now that the Grand River is receding.

But Mayor George Heartwell hesitated to declare victory over the worst flood on record, just yet.

“We will continue to be vigilant even though the worst is behind us,” Heartwell said.

There’s rain in forecast for Tuesday, so conditions could change. But the National Weather Service predicts the river will go down as much as a foot per day until it gets back to normal levels on Thursday.

That’s good news for riverfront hotels and businesses which are still pumping water out of their basements and parking garages.

City Manager Greg Sundstrom says the city has spent between $300,000 and $500,000 so far in overtime pay and equipment. But Heartwell says it's paid off.

“Because we were proactive we were able to weather this storm,” Heartwell said. After several days in a row of press conferences to update the media about the flooding, Heartwell hopes Monday’s conference will be the last for a while.

“There’s a sense of relief,” Heartwell said, “I am so incredibly proud of this community and the way it responded to this threat.”

Businesses and residents in communities along the Grand River, from Ionia to Grand Haven, are still drying out basements and assessing the damage.

On Monday crews carefully moved large debris stuck to the side of the Fulton Street bridge. They guide it underneath the bridge and four high voltage transmission lines.

Consumers Energy spokesman Roger Morgenstern watched a small crane pull a 20-foot-tall dead tree out of the water.

“It’s huge! And then I don’t know how they’re going to – I’m not an engineer but you get to a point that thing is going to be too heavy for that crane to pick up,” Morgenstern said, “It’s amazing what mother nature is sending down the river for us.”

Update 3:33 p.m.

Michigan Radio’s Dustin Dwyer traveled to Lowell, Michigan today to get a first-hand look at the damage there. WOOD-TV reports Lowell was “among the hardest hit West Michigan cities.”

The Grand River peaked at 19.02 feet yesterday at 8:45 a.m. It was just a hair over its previous record of 19.00 feet set back in 1948.

Dwyer spoke with Matthew Silverman of Lowell who owns around 20 acres of land in the area – most of it was underwater.

Silverman said water was flowing into his basement and he lost his boiler and water heater.

“A couple of the houses down the street, they got inundated... A couple of the people didn't even have flood insurance, so they're going to be hurt pretty bad,” said Silverman.

“Nobody was shocked. Everybody was prepared. Everybody was working really hard.... We had a constant flow of people just coming up, 'Do you need help with anything, what do you need?'” he said.

Silverman said the town became a gathering place for onlookers trying to experience the high waters.

"People were launching boats out of my flower bed the other day, with no regard for any private property."

“People were launching boats out of my flower bed the other day, with no regard for any private property. They were paddling right over the top of my fence - hitting my fence,” he said.

Silverman said the steady stream of kayakers and the thousands of onlookers on foot and in cars has been a little stressful.

“I mean, it's hard when you're working 24 hours a day, trying to keep your house above water, trying to help your neighbors out and you got people walking through your yard without permission, taking pictures of your house, walking into your backyard,” Silverman said.

12:45 p.m.

The Courtyard Marriott and Plaza Towers Condominiums in downtown Grand Rapids were evacuated this past Saturday morning. The hotel is expected to be shutdown until Wednesday, no word yet on when Plaza Towers residents can return.

Here's what happened, according to the Plaza Towers' website:

The weight of the water from the swollen river found a way to push upward and break the slab floor in the N corner of the hotel basement parking area. Above that area is the retail parking lot. Our structure is not believed to be damaged or impacted in any way.

The water poured into the basement which led to an immediate shutdown of electricity and the evacuation.

Michigan Radio's Lindsey Smith reports hotels and office buildings in downtown Grand Rapids along the Grand River are still pumping water out of their basements. She says the river is "expected to hit record levels downstream today in cities like Grandville, while upstream in Lowell and Ionia people are assessing the damage."

11:05 a.m.

Small creeks and streams around West and mid-Michigan hit their crests late last week. As they emptied out, they filled the mainstem rivers.

As we reported earlier, the Tittabawassee hit its peak late Friday night. And the Grand peaked last night.

For a look at what rivers are flooding around the state right now, you can look at this Google map from the National Weather Service.

Purple indicates where 'major flooding' is occurring. Right now, only the Grand River at Comstock Park (north of Grand Rapids) is experiencing major flooding. (The Tittabawassee in Midland was purple late Friday night.)

Map showing stream gauges around Michigan. Purple indicates "major flooding," red "moderate flooding," orange "minor flooding," yellow "near flood stage." If it's green, you're good.
Credit NWS

10:05 a.m.

The Grand River hit its peak in Grand Rapids yesterday at a record 21.84 feet around 5:15 p.m.

The previous record was set in Grand Rapids on March 1, 1985 at 19.64 feet.

The water is dropping, but the the river is expected to remain above flood stage through the rest of this week as this chart shows.

An updated forecast for the Grand River at Grand Rapids.
Credit NWS

Michigan Radio's Lindsey Smith and Dustin Dwyer are following the flooding and will have updates for us shortly.

The city has managed to keep flood waters out of its sewage treatment plant by erecting sandbag walls. The plant is operating at triple its capacity as Lindsey Smith reported.

MLive's Zane McMillan reports around $500,000 has been spent by the city on preventative measures. It's still to0 early to put a dollar figure on the amount of damage the city has suffered.

Major damage is occurring north of Grand Rapids along the Grand River. The river is cresting there right now. It's expected to start dropping later today.

More from the Associated Press:

The river also crested around 17.8 feet at Comstock Park in Kent County's Plainfield Township, edging a record of 17.75 feet set in 1948. At least 100 homes in the Comstock Park area were reported to be flooded.

You can see photos of the flooding north of Grand Rapids on this MLive photo gallery page.