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State of emergency declared in Detroit area due to flooding

June 26, 2021 GMT

A state of emergency has been declared for Detroit and surrounding Wayne County following daylong rain that flooded freeways and streets.

More than 6 inches of rain fell Friday in parts of the Detroit area, overloading sewer systems. Some streets were completely flooded, while low-lying sections of freeways saw water deep enough to cover car tires and hoods.

Storms that crossed through the region also knocked out power to about 40,000 homes and businesses.

Additional counties across southern Michigan could be added to the declaration as more heavy rain and strong winds are forecast over the weekend, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s office said Saturday.

More than a dozen counties in mid-Michigan and southeastern Michigan remained under a hazardous weather outlook and a flood watch Saturday, according to the National Weather Service in White Lake Township.

The Detroit area also was under a flood warning Saturday.

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“What’s being forecasted for tonight is one inch of rain, and if we get one inch of rain we’ll be just fine,” said Gary Brown, director of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department. “But if we get three inches of rain it’s going to be a problem with the ground being as saturated as it is and the system being able to manage that.”

Hundreds and possibly thousands of homes in Detroit had flooded basements or water in those basements and sewer backups, Brown told reporters Saturday.

“The intensity of these storms exceeded the designed standards for pump stations and combined sewer overflow facilities serving the Detroit region,” he said. “With this much rain, there’s nowhere for the water to go other than flooding streets and basements.”

Brown said the system was returning Saturday afternoon to normal operations levels and several city departments were assessing the impact of the storm.

Meanwhile, state police were removing vehicles still stranded on freeways, while checking to make sure no one remained in partially submerged cars.

A number of pumps designed to remove water from area freeways also were overloaded by the heavy rain, said Diane Cross, a spokeswoman for Michigan’s Department of Transportation.

“There is no way to keep pumping out water when more water is coming in,” Cross said.

Freeway catch basins also get clogged by leaves, branches and other debris which contributes to flooding. They have to be cleared out manually, she added.

Whitmer signed the state of emergency order Saturday and said the state’s Emergency Operations Center has been activated to coordinate the response to the flooding and sending of resources to hard-hit areas.

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Williams reported from West Bloomfield, Michigan.