DETROIT (WWJ) – Torrential storms with record-breaking rainfall passed over metro Detroit Monday, causing flash-floods that trapped thousands of motorists on freeways and filling basements with water; but citizens shouldn’t worry, Michigan’s governor says — everything is under control.
“This is severe flooding,” Gov. Rick Snyder said live on WWJ Newsradio 950 Tuesday morning. “Essentially, we got a lot of rain coming that, along with some power outages, sort of overwhelmed the capacity of our freeways to handle it.”
Snyder said even though a state of emergency has not yet been declared, officials are taking immediate action.
“We’ve activated the State Emergency Operation Center, we’ve sent in three additional squads of Michigan State Police to help motorists,” Snyder said. “MDOT has already gone to emergency procedures, we’re getting additional contracting recourses in, putting emergency pumps in and we have backhoes going to help remove mud. We’ve taking a dramatic series of action already without waiting for declarations.”
Despite the way it might seem, Snyder said officials were ready for the storm.
“We were prepared for this ahead of time, so there’s a whole sequencing of events that takes place when we have emergencies like this,” he said. “We are following protocols needed to make sure people are safe and we get the roads cleared up and opened as quickly as possible.”
As far as bringing in the National Guard to help communities like Warren, described by Mayor Jim Fouts as the epicenter of the storm’s disaster, Snyder said he’s not quite ready to give the go-ahead.
“We take one step at a time. We’re bringing the right resources that are needed at this appropriate time for the particular issues being faced,” he said.
Snyder, who spoke to WWJ from the Upper Peninsula, said it’s too early to tell how the flooding is affecting infrastructure. Several tipsters reported seeing sinkholes and crumbling bridges during the storm.
“I’ve been getting reports ever since the rain started last night,” he said. “We don’t want people to assume there are problems until we verify what those issues are and we respond appropriately.”
After traveling back down from the UP to Lansing late in the morning, Snyder took a helicopter tour to survey the damage.
Speaking to reporters after landing at Oakland County International Airport in Waterford, the governor said special caution needs to be taken when traveling local roads.
“Even when you see an area cleared, we’re asking people not to go beyond the barriers because we need to get the engineers in to make an assessment of both the road bed (and) the surrounding areas, if there’s a bridge involved, to make sure they’re really safe,” Snyder said.
The governor indicated that, after flying over the affected areas, this is some of the worst flooding he has ever seen.
He’s urging metro Detroiters to stick to essential travel and play it safe.
Snyder said that he does not anticipate the need to bring in the national guard at this time as state police and and road crews continue “working very hard.”
“They’re already cleaning up mud; a number of the freeways are being cleared, ” Snyder said. “They’re doing the inspections to make sure the area’s safe, and we wanna make sure that takes place … So, we’re going through a number of steps. We just hope people will be safe in the meantime.”
Snyder’s damage assessment made him concerned over the state of the roads — already an issue for the governor.
“It just reinforces the need that we need to make sure that we’re making the appropriate investments. That’s one of the challenged when you look at some of the areas that are flooded, some of the embankments, we had erosion there; so those are the knids of issues that I want to make sure we’re following up on.”
Snyder added that his team will be following up with several hard-hit communities to see what help may be needed.
WWJ Lansing Bureau Chief Tim Skubick said Snyder’s decision to cut his Up North trip short to visit metro Detroit at this time was a smart one.
“I don’t want to minimize this — this is a tragedy for a lot of people — but there are political implications here,” Skubick said. “He will be on the evening news tonight with a strong presence of being in control and doing what needs to be done.”
The storm has claimed at least three lives, officials said. A 31-year-old woman died after being trapped inside her car in more than three-feet of water in Warren; a 100-year-old woman drowned in her Warren basement; and a 68-year-old man died after pushing his car through flood waters in Oak Park.
Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said that, despite the heavy rains, the Detroit Water Department’s operational systems suffered no major failures; only some overwhelmed sewer systems. Detroit residents are being asked to clear their catch basins to alleviate flooding. If that doesn’t work, they’re asked to call the Detroit Water Department.
The National Weather Service said 4.57 inches of rain fell at Detroit Metro Airport, breaking the previous record of 2.06 inches set back in 1964. It’s the second-highest one-day rainfall on record for Detroit, behind 4.74 inches that fell on July 31, 1925.
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