Tornado watches and flooding come to Michigan today

Apr 18, 2013

Storms moved across Michigan this afternoon causing major flooding. Tornado watches are over. We updated this post today as we learned more. Scroll down and read up to see how the day unfolded.

Update 4:30 p.m.

We reported earlier in this post that the city of Chicago reversed the flow of the Chicago River to relieve flooding in upstream areas.

Major flooding in the Chicago Metro region has been identified as a pathway for Asian carp to get into the Great Lakes. Adam Allington explained this concern in a series he did for the Environment Report last year.

Michigan Radio's Rina Miller looked into that concern and reports:

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says crews are stationed along the 13-mile physical and electronic barrier along the Des Plaines River, which is experiencing record flooding. Felicia Kirksey no carp have been spotted so far, and that the Corps is confident electronic pulses will continue to deter the invasive fish. More rain is expected in that region tonight, but will taper off tomorrow.

She'll have more for us in a separate post.

3:25 p.m.

You can check the forecast for the river near you on the NWS Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service page. Click the dot nearest you and then click the "upstream gauge" or "downstream gauge" links to find the forecast nearest your area.

Here's the forecast for the Grand River at Grand Rapids. It's expected to reach a peak of 24.76 feet this Sunday night at 8 p.m.

The previous record was 19.64 feet on March 1, 1985.

The forecast for the Grand River in Grand Rapids. A lot of water is on its way. Records are expected to be broken.
The forecast for the Grand River in Grand Rapids. A lot of water is on its way. Records are expected to be broken.
Credit NWS

2:06 p.m.

The National Weather Service's map for Michigan is pretty colorful today showing flood warnings, thunderstorm watches, and tornado watches. So far, flooding is the major story.

Several rivers across the state are swelling. The National Weather Service has this map showing where flooding is expected:

Rivers expected to flood in Michigan. Purple indicates major flooding expected. Red shows moderate flooding expected.
Rivers expected to flood in Michigan. Purple means major flooding. Red means moderate flooding.
Credit NWS

You can see more specific information on rivers on the NWS's Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service page.

1:00 p.m.

You know it's a big storm when the city of Chicago reverses the flow of the Chicago river. The city has huge underground tunnels designed to store untreated storm and sewage water instead of letting it flow into nearby rivers.

Those tunnels are near capacity.

This video is from our colleagues at WBEZ in Chicago:

12:30 p.m.

Last night's storms caused rivers to jump their banks in West Michigan and today's storm will likely make things worse.

Some area schools are sending students home early and canceling evening events. You can find a list of those closings on WOOD-TV's website.

The city of Grand Rapids, which temporarily lost Internet connection this morning, is holding a press conference at 1:30 p.m. to talk about the storms and flooding.

Grand Rapids reporter John Agar tweets:

Eric Faber on Facebook tells us:

Thornapple river looked intense, white water where you wouldn't expect it. The Grand River is flowing really really fast, and last night it was already up to the bottom of the arches on the bridges downtown.

The Holland Sentinel reports:

Authorities report that both the northbound and southbound lanes of U.S. 31 have been closed between Lincoln Avenue and 32nd Street in Holland due to flooding.

The Red Cross of West Michigan has opened a shelter in Newaygo County for those affected by flooding.

The shelter is at True North Community Services, 6308 S. Warner Ave., Fremont, MI 49412.

The Kent County Health Department offers this advice:

  • Do not attempt to drive through roadways covered in water – the road could be washed out or swept away by strong current.
  • Avoid floodwaters; water may contain debris, gasoline or raw sewage.
  • If floodwaters get into your home, clean and disinfect everything that got wet.
  • If you see a downed power line, do not approach it, call 911.
  • Damaged sewer systems can create serious health hazards.
  • Service any damage to septic systems as soon as possible.

10:50 a.m.

Spring weather has made itself known in Michigan as rivers in West Michigan have come out of their banks and tornado watches have been issued by the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center.

Here's a map of where the experts are watching for potential tornado formation later today:

As a storm heads our way, tornado watches are being issued.
As a storm heads our way, tornado watches are being issued.
Credit NWS

Here's what they're watching for today:

  • Several tornadoes possible
  • Several damaging wind gusts with a few significant gusts to 80 mph possible
  • A few large hail events to 1.5 inches in diameter possible.

From the Storm Prediction Center:

The tornado watch area is approximately along and 95 statute miles east and west of a line from 15 miles northwest of Saginaw, Michigan to 20 miles southeast of Jackson, Michigan. For a complete depiction of the watch see the associated watch outline.

Last night's storms sent several rivers in West Michigan over their banks. Michigan Radio's Dustin Dwyer sent us the pictures above.

More from MLive:

The National Weather Service said as of Wednesday night the river had climbed to 14.2 feet, more than 2 feet over the 12-foot flood stage. The river could rise to 18.3 feet by Monday morning, forecasters predicted.

On Twitter, West Michigan residents are talking about the flooding they're seeing there on the hashtag #grflooding.

We'll update this post as we learn more.

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