flood

Michigan State Police

DETROIT (AP) - A newspaper says nearly 10 billion gallons of sewer overflows were released into rivers and lakes in southeastern Michigan after a tremendous August storm.

  The Detroit Free Press says the number comes from reports to state regulators. The waste came from sanitary sewers that couldn't handle the rain and systems that combine stormwater and sewage.

  Untreated waste carries contaminants that can spoil Lake St. Clair beaches in Macomb County and put drinking water at risk. The Free Press says 10 billion gallons would equal about 20 million 50-gallon baths.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

By this time next year, state officials hope to be ready to move into a new $22 million center to manage Michigan’s future emergencies.   

Ground was broken yesterday for the new State Emergency Operations Center. The center will serve as a command center to coordinate various local, state and federal agencies at times of emergency.

The old center has been activated several times in the past 12 months to coordinate the state response to floods, ice storms, and other natural disasters.

Michigan State Police

DETROIT – The U.S. Small Business Administration says it's making low-interest disaster loans available to home and business owners in Detroit-area counties that suffered massive flooding last month.

The Friday announcement followed President Barack Obama issuing a federal disaster declaration the day before. That action makes available funding to those affected in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties.

The Home Depot in Madison Heights, for instance, has a "flood recovery zone" set up inside the store's entrance. Things like drywall, paint, cleaning supplies, dehumidifiers, and appliances are flying off the shelves.

Morguefile

LANSING – State officials say billions of gallons of raw and partially treated sewage were dumped in Detroit area rivers and streams after flooding from heavy rains earlier this month.

Department of Environmental Quality spokeswoman Laura Verona tells The Detroit News for a story Friday that about 46% of the nearly 10 billion gallons of sewage released Aug. 11 by water treatment facilities was raw, diluted or partially treated sewage.

The state agency has put together a preliminary report on the sewage release.

Combined sewers and retention basins in some communities in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties overflowed due to the Aug. 11 storm. Some areas received more than 6 inches of rain. Water from the storm left parts of freeways flooded and damaged thousands of homes.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Gov. Rick Snyder says massive flooding this week in and around Detroit reinforces the need to boost state spending on roads. Snyder says Michigan’s crumbling infrastructure may have played a role in the floods, although it’s too early to tell for sure.

“I don’t want to be premature, but you would imagine it would have some consequences in terms of magnifying the effect on the freeway flooding,” Snyder told reporters as he surveyed damage at homes and schools in Royal Oak on Friday. “That wouldn’t have affected the homes, but in terms of the freeway challenges.”

PONTIAC, Mich. (AP) - Officials in Oakland County have estimated flood damage from Monday's rain storm at $337 million, but warn the amount could increase as more assessments are received.

Communities in Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties are trying to determine how much the final costs will be after more than 6 inches of rain fell in some areas.

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson says Friday that "the damage estimate does not reflect the magnitude of the task that lies ahead" for residents.

Last winter was the snowiest and one of the coldest ever in Metropolitan Detroit. Three days ago, the area was hit by an absolutely devastating rainstorm and the following floods.

We don’t know if these events were influenced by climate change. We do know that the infrastructure, from freeway ramps to storm drains, wasn’t adequate to deal with the problems.

Our roads were in urgent need of investment before this happened, and many are in worse shape now. For years, we’ve known that the water infrastructure in southeast Michigan was in need of major upgrading.

But we haven’t done any of it.  

NOAA

This Week in Michigan Politics, Emily Fox and Jack Lessenberry discuss how flooding in Detroit will impact infrastructure, how the Senate might vote on legislation to allow wolf hunting in Michigan, and what the state is doing to make sure charter schools are up to snuff.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Gov. Rick Snyder says numerous state agencies are helping Detroit and surrounding communities deal with massive floods.

Snyder flew to Metro Detroit to survey the damage himself.

Snyder flew back from a trip to the Upper Peninsula to see the flood damage firsthand from a Michigan State Police helicopter. Many freeways and major roads were closed in Metro Detroit; some sections of roads were swept away in flood waters.

Snyder there’s only so much public officials can do to prevent that kind of damage.

via buildingdetroit.org

  First the flood waters, now the concern is about mold.

Many southeast Michigan basements flooded on Monday.

George Miller is the director of Oakland County’s Department of Health and Human Services. He says to avoid mold, homeowners should remove everything damaged by water from their flooded basement.

“The biggest thing is, the faster you can get the water out of your basement and start to dry it out, the less chance you’re going to have for the mold that everybody’s concerned with,” says Miller.

MDOT

Monday’s floods may have caused serious damage to Michigan’s busiest highway interchange.

Diane Cross is a Michigan Department of Transportation spokeswoman. She says there are concerns about safety of the I-75 road surface at I-696.

“It looks like the road is fine,” says Cross, “but you can see where the substructure has already eroded away. We’re not sure it can hold any weight.”

Cross says it may take a few days to return the interchange to service, but it could be a week or longer, depending on the extent of the damage.

The Detroit automakers are moving into their fifth year of recovery after the disastrous bottoming-out of 2009 when General Motors and Chrysler filed for bankruptcy. Half a decade later, however, sales are brisk and auto loans are available. But is the future that bright? On today's show: Are there warning signs of another auto downturn? And, if so, what needs to happen to stop it?

Then, what will our rivers and roads look like once spring hits and the snow melts? We spoke with meteorologist Jim Maczko to find out.

Lake Erie is full of blooms of cyanobacteria (sometimes referred to as blue-green algae) and dead zones, and a new report is asking us to take action. What can be done to improve the health of this lake?

Also, how about adding smell to food advertising? 

First on the show, are Michigan veterans getting what they deserve in terms of benefits and support?

The Veterans' Administration says when it comes to per-capita spending on veterans, Michigan checks in at an average of just over $3,400 per vet. The national average is over $4,800. That places Michigan last in the nation.

What is the state doing about this and to make sure that veterans get all the benefits to which they're entitled?

The director of Michigan's Veterans Affairs Agency, Jeff Barnes, joined us today.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

We've all kept rather busy this winter tracking the seemingly never-ending snowfall. And, with nobody's friend – the polar vortex – hanging around all winter, nothing has melted. So there's a sizeable snow pack just waiting for the spring melt.

What are forecasters predicting in terms of river and road flooding this spring?

Jim Maczko is a meteorologist with the National Weather Service based in Grand Rapids. He joined us today to give us an idea of what to look out for as temperatures warm up.

Listen to the full interview above.

YouTube

People who need to be rescued after taking part in “reckless” behavior during emergencies would be fined under bills introduced in the state house this week.

Emergency responders had to rescue several people who tried to kayak down fast-moving, swollen rivers during record flooding this spring in Michigan. Officials repeatedly warned people to stay out of the waters.

There’s this video online with four guys on jet skis during the record flood of the Grand River this spring. They jump over flooded playground equipment; duck real low to fit under bridges. It looked like a lot fun, but it’s probably not the brightest idea safety-wise.

State Representative Brandon Dillon (D-Grand Rapids) says emergency responders had enough on their plate at that time.

“We want to make sure that their lives aren’t put unnecessarily in jeopardy by going to have to rescue somebody who is doing thrill-seeking behavior or acting in an extremely reckless manner,” Dillon said.

User: Brother O'Mara / Flickr

Chrysler waves the white flag

Chrysler is now agreeing to recall some 2.7 million older model Jeeps. At first, Chrysler refused to recall the cars and the company maintains the vehicles are not defective. Safety regulators say 1993 to 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokees and 2002-2007 Jeep Liberty Vehicles can catch on fire when they're rear-ended. The design flaw has killed 51 people in fiery crashes.

Michigan counties will receive disaster relief

President Obama has approved a disaster declaration for 16 Michigan counties hard hit by spring floods. The declaration will help communities repair and rebuild roads, bridges and other public infrastructure damaged in the flooding. This does not include assistance for individuals or businesses. State and federal agencies will soon hold briefings across the state to help communities understand and start the application process.  

The Detroit Zoo and the DIA are safe

Legislation was signed into law yesterday allowing the Detroit Zoo and the Detroit Institute of Arts to get millions of dollars in tax revenues as promised from the metro region. Several metro cities were skimming some of the revenue generated by multi-county millages voters approved to support the zoo and the museum.

Lindsey Smith/Michigan Radio

President Obama has approved a disaster declaration for 16 Michigan counties hard hit by spring floods.   

Heavy rains in April and May inundated communities across the state. 

The president’s disaster declaration will help communities repair and rebuild roads, bridges and other public infrastructure damaged in the flooding. The disaster declaration does not include assistance for individuals or businesses.

Dustin Dwyer/Michigan Radio

Gov. Snyder seeks a presidential disaster declaration for 16 Michigan counties hit hard by floods this spring. Heavy rains in April and early May led to flooding in many parts of Michigan. 

Governor Snyder declared a state of disaster on May 7. That set the stage for state and federal teams to review damage and property losses in 19 counties. The assessment has led the governor now to seek a presidential disaster declaration in 16 counties. The Federal Emergency Management Agency will review the governor’s request.

cncphotos / flickr

This week in Michigan politics, Christina Shockley and Jack Lessenberry discuss possible changes to the Michigan Merit Curriculum, finances and teacher layoffs at Buena Vista schools, the possibility of Michigan Representative Mike Rogers being the next FBI director, and Governor Rick Snyder's declaring that nearly a quarter of Michigan is in a state of disaster from flooding.

Tart cherries, the main cherry crop in Michigan.
Emily Fox / Michigan Radio

The weather may seem perfect to a lot us right now.

But not so perfect for farmers, many of whom have yet to plant their spring crops.

Michigan has been enjoying beautiful sunny skies during the month of May, but the state’s farmers are still waiting for their fields to dry out from April’s heavy showers.

Fields are so soggy that only about 5% of Michigan’s corn crop has been planted.  Compare that with 2012 when 42% of the crop at this time last year.

“I don’t think we’ve got a lot of nervousness right now,” says Ken Nye, with the Michigan Farm Bureau, “It does mean we’re ….going to compress this thing a little bit…and it does mean that we could be a little bit late before everything gets finishes up depending on the weather from here.”

Nye says by contrast Michigan’s fruit crops are doing well this year.  Especially compared with 2012.   More than 90% of Michigan’s tart cherry crop was lost after unusually warm weather in February led the trees to bloom early and more than a dozen freezes between March and May killed it.

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder has declared a state of disaster across much of Michigan due to storm- and flood-related damage. The proclamation makes state resources available to help the weather-stricken areas.

Governor Snyder had to wait for flood waters to recede so local officials a chance could do preliminary damage assessments. The disaster proclamation covers the cities of Grand Rapids and Ionia in west Michigan, and 19 counties in the western Upper Peninsula, northern lower Michigan and southwest Michigan. The damage was caused by storms and floods that lasted through most of April and into early May.

The next step is for teams to visit the flood-stricken areas to conduct more detailed reviews, including discussions with renters, homeowners, and business owners who suffered damage. The governor has asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency to be part of those tours.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Grand Rapids flood 3-4 inches away from disaster

"A National Weather Service water expert says Grand Rapids was 3 to 4 inches of rain short of a disastrous breaching of its flood walls when the Grand River rose to record levels after heavy spring rains. The flooding forced the evacuation of an estimated 1,700 people in the Grand Rapids area and began easing after a forecast heavy rain on April 19 failed to materialize," the Associated Press reports.

Proposed legislation would lessen penalties for marijuana possession

"Legislation pending in the Michigan House would lessen penalties for people who are caught with small amounts of marijuana. The measure makes possession of one ounce of marijuana a civil infraction, rather than a misdemeanor," the Associated Press reports.

Pelosi says Detroit doesn't need an emergency manager

"Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi took a swipe at the appointment of Detroit's emergency manager last night during a speech in Detroit. The House Democratic Leader said there doesn't need to be anyone else 'running the city of Detroit,'" the Associated Press reports.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Thousands of people affected by a record flood of the Grand River are still coming to terms with the losses. Today the river is expected to finally dip below the flood stage in Grand Rapids.

Flood comes strong and fast

The flood got real a week ago today. On Thursday, April 18th, more than three inches of rain fell in one day, blowing away the 1939 record of a mere inch and a half.

Michigan State Police

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) - Officials say about 150 people who were evacuated from homes in Kent County because of flooding have been allowed to return home.

Kent County spokeswoman Lisa LaPlante says those allowed home by around midday Wednesday are among nearly 700 officials believe are evacuated. She says officials want to make sure homes are inspected before people return and utility crews restore power and natural gas service.

The Kent County number doesn't include about 1,000 people evacuated from downtown Grand Rapids' Plaza Towers because of the rain-swollen Grand River.

LaPlante says it could be weeks before Kent County officials have estimates of the financial cost of the flooding damage in the area.

Anderson Eye Care / Facebook.com

The Grand River hit a record high level in Grand Rapids over the weekend.  Volunteers spent hours filling sandbags to protect homes and city buildings.

City managers are still dealing with the flood waters. But they’re also planning for future storms.

Haris Alibasic directs Grand Rapids’ Office of Energy and Sustainability.

“Given the more intense and more frequent, intense rain events we’re probably going to be experiencing, as climate change is anticipated to really have a serious impact in the Midwest," he says.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Mike Flanagan announces public work group on education

Mike Flanagan, the state's superintendent, announced the formation of his own public education work group at Governor Snyder's education summit in East Lansing yesterday. His announcement comes days after a Detroit News report uncovered a secret work group that included top aides to Governor Snyder and private sector representatives. Flanagan says the secret group  should be disbanded.

Flooding in Grand Rapids is receding

After the worst flood on record, Grand Rapids city officials are relieved that the Grand River is finally receding.

"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," Michigan Radio's Lindsey Smith reports.

Schuette says trust fund money off-limits for dredging

"Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette says a trust fund for land purchases and improvements can't be used for harbor dredging. Schuette's opinion released Monday found that dredging is upkeep and can't be paid for with Natural Resources Trust Fund money...The Republican's opinion is considered binding unless reversed by the courts," the Associated Press reports.

YouTube

So much for the "no contact" order from the health department.

These guys suited up and went places they normally can't go:

One commenter asks "That's pretty awesome, but isn't the water disgusting?"

Looks like the fun outweighed the "disgusting" in this case.

H/T Dustin Dwyer

Anderson Eye Care / Facebook.com

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. 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.

On today's show: the future of education in Michigan.

Governor Snyder has said he believes too much emphasis is  put on four-year degrees in our state.

Today, we take a look at the requirements to graduate high school in Michigan.

And billionaire and founder of Quicken Loans Dan Gilbert has a vision for reviving downtown Detroit, but what does Gilbert's "Opportunity Detroit" plan really mean for the city and its residents?

And it's been a challenging few days in terms of rain and flooding through much of Michigan.

In the Lansing area, the Red Cedar River has caused flooding on Michigan State University's campus, leaving some athletic fields waterlogged. This weekend the Lansing Marathon had to be rerouted along the Lansing river trail because of high water levels.
 
Residents in the Saginaw area are also seeing flooding from the Saginaw River. Over the weekend, officials opened a middle school in  Saginaw Township as a shelter due to flooding in the area. And flooding closed some area roads, and people were encouraged to avoid crossing roadways covered by water.
 
Meanwhile, water levels have lowered in the Midland area, which had been hit by flooding of the Tittabawassee River.

And Grand Rapids is still coping with the aftermath of flooding that hit downtown hotels, stores and businesses. We spoke with Michigan Radio's west Michigan reporter Lindsey Smith.

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.
NWS

We're hearing a lot of news about flooding rivers around the state, but which rivers are above flood stage right now?

The National Weather Service has a handy map that displays stream gauges from the USGS (United States Geological Survey).

Here's what it shows now:

Rivers experiencing major to moderate flooding:

  • Grand River at several locations
  • Saginaw River at Saginaw

Rivers experiencing minor flooding:

  • Muskegon River
  • Maple River
  • Grand River
  • Thornapple River
  • Red Cedar River
  • St. Joseph River

These stream gauges represent your tax dollars at work, and the USGS wants you to know that some of these gauges around the country will be idled because your tax dollars will no longer be at work.

So far, only one gauge in the western UP is at risk because of the budget cuts.

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