flood

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.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Grand River crests in Grand Rapids, thousands evacuated from flooding

The Grand River has crested in Grand Rapids. As Lindsey Smith reports,

"Grand Rapids remains under a state of emergency because of significant damage to a number of buildings in the downtown area [from the flooding]. It’s estimated around 1,000 residents in mid and west Michigan have been evacuated from their homes."

Bills that target welfare recipients being considered in the state House

"Low-income Michigan families would have to take drug tests and make sure their children don't miss too much school to qualify for some welfare benefits, under legislation in the state House," the Associated Press reports.

Flooding, Boston bombings and freezing temperatures didn't stop Lansing marathon

"Sub-freezing temperatures, tight security and a course rerouted to avoid a flooded section of the Lansing River Trail all failed to stop the Lansing Marathon. Lansing's temperature stood at 28 degrees at the race's 8 a.m. start yesterday as participants honored the victims of last Monday's Boston Marathon bombing," the Associated Press reports.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

This post was updated as we learned news related to the rising waters in West and mid-Michigan. To see how events unfolded from Friday through Sunday night, scroll down and read up.

To read about current news related to the flooding, see this new post.

Sunday, April 21st, 9:30 p.m.

At nearly 22 feet, Michigan’s longest river is very near where the National Weather Service is predicting it will crest in Grand Rapids. The Grand River’s flood stage there is 18 feet.

City officials were confident the waste water treatment plant (that serves around a dozen other neighboring communities) will make it through the night, thanks in part to a massive sandbag wall lining the perimeter.

Over the weekend the city moved around $3 million dollars in equipment that’s not needed for the emergency to drier locations, just in case.

The flooding means the plant is processing more than triple the usual amount of water. Over the last three days, the city says the plant has treated 150 million gallons of water a day, compared to an average of 42 million gallons a day.

People are still being asked to conserve water; take shorter showers, hold off on washing laundry and dishes.

“We expect to be safe through the night,” the city’s Environmental Services Manager Mike Lunn said in a written statement.

“The combined performance of our flood walls, our pumps, professional staff, and volunteers has been truly amazing. We must, however, continue to be diligent in monitoring the situation,” Lunn said.

The city is no longer calling on people to help fill and move sandbags, for now.

“I can’t possibly imagine what else we could do to react to this situation,” Mayor George Heartwell said, “We realize that things could change dramatically in the next few days with more rain or if issues associated with structures – such as buildings, walls, or bridges - arise.”

The crest will head to Grandville soon, where the city library is now taking on some water in the basement.

In Lowell, upstream from Grand Rapids, the water is already beginning to recede. There’s been very limited access into the city, with a number of bridges closed. But the barricades are predicted to move off Main Street before the Monday morning commute.

Sunday 4:30 p.m.

Electricity is being rerouted in Grand Rapids because of the flooded Grand River.

Officials from Consumers Energy said Sunday there are four high voltage distribution lines that run just under the Fulton Street bridge.

The water is high enough there's a concern that big trees or other debris floating down the river could snag the lines and cause safety concerns so they’ve de-energeized the lines. Electrical services have not been impacted because of the move.

Once the river recedes they’ll reopen the bridge. But officials couldn’t estimate how long that will be.

The Grand River is expected to crest Monday around 2 a.m. at 22.3 feet.

At a press conference Sunday afternoon Mayor George Heartwell thanked the hundreds of volunteers who’ve been filling and stockpiling 6,000 sandbags an hour over the weekend. He called for more volunteers this afternoon and evening.

“Even though we’re the most incredible volunteering city in the world, we need more,” Heartwell said, “Please help us protect our city.”

City-owned buildings have already been lined with the bags. So the 50,000 that remain are primarily for residents and business owners who need then, “or the possibility that the skies open up again this week, we get a ton of rain and we get a resurgence of these levels.”

Rain is in the forecast as early as Tuesday.

Michigan’s second largest city remains under a state of emergency because of significant property damage to a number of buildings in the downtown area.

It’s estimated that around a thousand residents in mid and west Michigan have been evacuated from their homes. Some have already been able to return.

Sunday 11:10 a.m.

User: Brother O'Mara / Flickr

Snyder wants to lower auto insurance rates

Governor Rick Snyder is asking lawmakers to make changes to Michigan's no-fault auto insurance system. The Governor says Michigan has the highest insurance rates in the Midwest and have the eighth highest rate in the county.

"Right now, people critically injured in an auto accident can receive unlimited lifetime medical benefits. Under a plan announced yesterday, that amount would be capped at $1 million dollars," Jake Neher reports.

Michigan House approves bill against indefinite detention

"The Michigan House has approved legislation that would prohibit state and local law enforcement officials from helping the federal government indefinitely detain American citizens without charges," the Associated Press reports.

Weather update

More flooding and a return to wintry weather in places are being seen as spring storms prompt evacuations in parts of Michigan. More rain is expected today. We might even get some snow this afternoon in West, Mid Michigan and Flint. The Grand River in Grand Rapids is expected to crest on Sunday, just inches below the 100-year flood level.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

**Find updated flood coverage here.**

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.

Snow melt, rain could cause flooding this week

Jan 28, 2013
Tom Grundy / Flickr

Here’s the good news.

The snow and ice that shut down many Michigan schools this morning are on their way out as temperatures are expected to rise to the mid-40s across much of the state.

But the warming brings its own set of problems. Foremost among them is flooding.

The National Weather Service explains it this way:          

courtesy of WDIV/Youtube

Gov. Snyder is trying again to get some federal help for people in Genesee County hard-hit by spring floods.  

Tom Grundy / Flickr

FEMA will not provide disaster assistance to Michigan communities affected by severe flooding back in May.

More than five inches of rain fell in parts of Genesee County near Flint on May 3 and 4.

Several homes and businesses suffered extensive damage. It was enough for Gov. Snyder to declare a state of emergency in the affected areas, but not enough for the federal government.

From the Flint Journal:

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has told Gov. Rick Snyder that a request for major disaster assistance has been denied, according to a letter from FEMA administrator W. Craig Fugate.

"Based on our review of all the information available it has been determined that the damage to dwellings from this event was not of such severity and magnitude as to be beyond the capabilities of the state, affected local governments and voluntary agencies," Fugate's letter to Snyder says.

Genesee County officials are expected to appeal the decision.

WDIV Video / YouTube

More than five inches of rain fell in parts of Genesee County near Flint, Michigan on May 3 and 4, leading to major flooding and damage to homes and businesses in the area.

Last Friday, Gov. Snyder declared a "state of emergency" in Genesee County, which made state resources available. The next step is to see if federal emergency resources will be made available.

Roger Fonger of the Flint Journal reports:

Federal Emergency Management Agency officials are joining state and local officials this afternoon to assess damage to homes and businesses in the hardest-hit areas of the county.

"They will be out for the next few days -- until it's done," said Nicole Lisabeth, a spokeswoman for Michigan State Police's Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division.

"This is for officials to get a really good idea whether the damages might qualify for federal aid and whether we (will) proceed with asking for a presidential (disaster) declaration," Lisabeth said.

Lisabeth said homeowners and businesses that suffered damage might qualify for low-interest loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

user tanakawho / Flickr

Today, Gov. Rick Snyder declared a "state of emergency" in Genesee County following the severe flooding near Flint, Michigan on May 3 and 4.

The declaration makes state resources available to help with damage resulting from the storms and flooding.

Federal resources could follow.

More from the Governor's office:

The declaration, outlined in a proclamation, was requested by local officials and will ensure that all possible resources, in accordance with the Michigan Emergency Management Plan, are provided to assist local response efforts.

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