Mich. Communities Ask Governor To Declare Emergency In Wake Of Flooding

By Gina Damron, Kathleen Gray and Eric D. Lawrence, Detroit Free Press
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Aug. 13--The rain came and left destruction in its wake: Soaked furniture, abandoned cars, impassable roads.

As metro Detroiters spent Tuesday grappling with the aftermath of the historic downpour that flooded roadways and basements on Monday, city and county leaders considered ways to help weather the impending financial storm.

Wayne County has declared a state of emergency for its 43 communities and called on Gov. Rick Snyder to do the same, "so that state and federal resources may be made available to our local communities and citizens," Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano said in a news release.

The governor's office won't take action on Wayne County's request for an emergency declaration until it gets a better sense of the scope of the damage in metro Detroit, said Sara Wurfel, Snyder's spokeswoman.

"They didn't ask for any specific resources," she said. "And we're trying to identify ways we can assist them right away."

Warren and Ferndale also declared states of emergency and Royal Oak was considering declaring one.

"We are absolutely overwhelmed," Warren Mayor Jim Fouts said. "We've got police, fire, sanitation, DPW, waste treatment -- anybody who wants to work overtime, can. We're working 'round the clock. This is probably a 200-year rain. I've never seen anything like this."

The state is working with local leaders, and a representative from the Federal Emergency Management Agency is on the way to the region from Chicago.

"The state is already helping in numerous ways on the ground and basically we haven't gotten a good assessment yet on the damage," Wurfel said. "When we get that, we'll be prepared to act."

If Snyder does declare a state of emergency and asks for federal assistance, the president could issue a major disaster declaration and provide public assistance for things like repairing infrastructure and public facilities; assistance to households and businesses, and hazard mitigation assistance to reduce future losses to public and private property.

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The destruction across metro Detroit was widespread, as divers searched submerged vehicles, roadways remained closed and homeowners decided what belongings could be salvaged.

As of this evening, two deaths are possibly linked to the torrential downpour -- a 100-year-old woman found dead in her flooded basement in Warren and a 31-year-old woman, who suffered a cardiac arrest in Warren on Monday after her car was stranded.

Warren declared a state of emergency to activate its plan to do things like ordering people not to park on the street.

In Ferndale, flooding made roads there impassable, causing road erosion and collapsed catch basins, according to a news release.

And in Royal Oak, which has not yet declared a state of emergency, City Manager Donald Johnson said southbound Stephenson Highway in the area of Lincoln Avenue and I-75 is closed because the road surface no longer has support.

Residents across the region were forced to throw out waterlogged couches, carpeting, electronics and belongings with sentimental value.

For Stephanie Schebel of Royal Oak, the water in her basement rose too quickly to save much of anything, including family photos and heirlooms "that you cannot replace."

"There's nothing you can do, and you just hear things falling over because there's so much water," Schebel said. "It's devastating."

Record rainfall

Monday was the second-heaviest single-day rainfall in Michigan history, with 4.57 inches recorded at Detroit Metro Airport, said Dan Thompson of the White Lake Township office of the National Weather Service. The record is 4.74 on July 31, 1925. Parts of the Clinton and Rouge rivers crested because of Monday's rainfall, weather service meteorologist Steve Considine said Tuesday afternoon.

Based on data reported to the weather service, Dearborn and Southfield were the hardest hit, with totals of more than 6 inches in each community.

With flooding on area interstates, drivers were urged Tuesday to stay off the roads.

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In addition to flooding, some residents also dealt with power outages. DTE Energy reports about 8,000 customers without power as of 8 p.m., down from about 23,000 Monday night.

The outages are scattered, but there are pockets in Detroit, Dearborn, Southgate, Farmington and Northville.

It's unclear when those customers would have their power restored.

"Crews are having challenges traveling to areas to make repairs," DTE spokeswoman Erica Donerson said.

Consumers Energy spokeswoman Debra Dodd said the company had no major natural gas interruptions because of the storms and flooding, noting that DTE provides most of the electric service in the Detroit area.

Consumers Energy issued a news release Tuesday advising home and business owners with appliances affected by the storms, such as furnaces, clothes dryers and hot-water heaters, to have them inspected by a qualified contractor before attempting to restart or use them.

The company also noted that the storms would have some effect on the company's routine business.

"Natural-gas customers living in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties who have nonessential natural gas service requests, such as turn-ons for new homes, etc., are asked to wait 24 hours until Wed., Aug. 13, to schedule this type of work so emergency calls associated with the flooding can be addressed," the release said.

Requests to shut off gas to homes and businesses should be made to 800-477-5050, the company said.

It was not immediately clear how many Consumers customers had experienced outages as a result of the storms.

'What do we do?'

Meanwhile, communities struggled to assist residents while dealing with flooding themselves.

Floodwaters swamped the Warren Police Department, with 3 feet of water in its basement.

Warren Police Deputy Commissioner Louis Galasso said the basement houses the property and evidence room, and the utility room and boiler system. The water has even submerged two undercover police cars and a scout car as well as the department's main elevator car, gun range and arsenal.

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In Ferndale, the City Hall "had significant flooding impacting their phone system rendering the system virtually unusable and other damage throughout the basement of City Hall."

Donald Johnson, the city manager in Royal Oak, said that earlier Tuesday he had reports of 500 homes with flooded basements and most streets flooded in the city.

Debra Furmaniak, 29, and her husband Brian Furmaniak, 31, returned to their Royal Oak home on North Vermont, near I-75 and 11 Mile, around 8 p.m. Monday and the water was already up to the second step in their finished basement.

"We stared down there for a second like 'What do we do?' " said Debra Furmaniak.

The water had to be pumped out and the carpet had to be ripped out. The couple spent the morning trying to salvage what they could. They hadn't heard back from a restoration company and insurance companies are inundated with calls from people in similar situations.

Neighbors helping neighbors

Through it all, neighbors took the time to help each other as floods left people stranded or with multiple feet of water filling up their basements.

Ed Pough never thought he'd use his 16-foot fishing boat on his Clinton Township street.

But he has used it twice now to rescue or help neighbors stranded by floodwaters near his home, which did not flood. On Tuesday, he and neighbor Gary Cyrus, 42, help launch the boat on Millar near Utica to help Joann Longo get to her father, who was in his flooded house.

Staff writers Elisha Anderson, Robert Allen, Katrease Stafford, Christina Hall, Marlon A. Walker, Todd Spangler, Kristi Tanner, Bill Laitner, Niraj Warikoo, Keith Matheny, John Wisely, Ann Zaniewski, Christie Innes and Paul Egan contributed to this report.

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(c)2014 the Detroit Free Press

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Distributed by MCT Information Services

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