August 15, 2014 at 1:00 am

Flood toll for Metro Detroit creeps upward

Communities take stock of drenched homes, roads

Sanitation crews clear items from Huntington Woods streets after residents cleaned out their homes. Many municipalities are increasing trash collection to help cleanup efforts. (Daniel Mears / The Detroit News)

The toll from this week’s widespread flooding in Metro Detroit is beginning to become evident.

■Tens of thousands of homes flooded: 18,047 in Warren, with total damage in that city an estimated $1.2 billion; 40 percent of homes and businesses in Dearborn; a third of the homes in Royal Oak; and 100 homes in Roseville.

■A buckled section of pavement on Interstate 94 at Warren in Detroit, and eroded embankments at I-696 and I-75, just two of the most visible examples of damage to area roads.

■The revelation that 58 percent of freeway pump houses are in poor condition, which added to the difficulty of keeping below-grade highways free of massive puddles that trapped drivers.

■At least $500,000 spent by the Michigan Department of Transportation to drain and clear roads.

In Warren, the damage “is more widespread than anyone thought,” Mayor James Fouts said. “Every neighborhood has been hit.”

The city has about 50,000 homes and more than 18,000 were affected, Fouts said. The police station, the community center, the 37th District Court and the Owen Jax Recreation Center also sustained damage.

There were more than 1,000 abandoned vehicles in the city, 200 alone on Mound and 10 Mile, the mayor said. “We lost at least 10 police cars.”

Fouts’ city sustained the most damage in Macomb County when near record-setting rain drenched the tricounty area Monday.

To speed cleanup efforts, Fouts has approved overtime for the public works, sanitation and water departments. “Our goal is to have the city cleared by next week,” he said.

In Dearborn, city officials estimated 40 percent of homes and businesses sustained basement flooding or sewer backups.

Damage assessment crews would begin neighborhood visits beginning Thursday afternoon, Mayor John B. O’Reilly Jr. said in a press statement. The teams will photograph curbside garbage and ask residents if they can photograph damage in basements. This is voluntary.

Roseville City Manager Scott Adkins said 100 homes had reported flood damage; the city is conducting a damage assessment that includes providing questionnaires to residents. “We don’t have a calculation of the dollar value at this point,” he added.

“We had flooding at city hall, not to the degree that Warren had — several inches versus several feet,” he said.

Officials with the city of Ferndale are scouring neighborhoods to see how many properties were carting a lot of damaged, flood-related items to the curb for garbage pickup, said Joseph Gacioch, chief innovation officer in the city manager’s office.

While Ferndale doesn’t have a count of homes affected by the storm, “we anticipate a significant amount of the community” was, he said.

Gacioch said city hall had four feet of flood water.

Officials in Royal Oak estimate about 8,000 of the city’s 20,000 houses suffered flood damage. Oakland County is expected to release the dollar value of damage throughout the county Friday.

Freeway pump houses fail

The deluge didn’t just close freeways. It also revealed the imperiled condition of the infrastructure that is needed to maintain them.

“Infrastructure is more than roads and bridges,” said Jeff Cranson, MDOT director of communications. “It includes water mains, storm sewers, drainage, pumping stations and more.”

MDOT oversees 165 pump houses, of which 139 are in the Metro region, including 119 operated by Wayne County.

According to MDOT, 58 percent of the pump houses are in poor condition, 20 percent are in fair condition and 22 percent are in good condition.

“Our long-term goal is to have 90 percent in good/fair condition, but that’s not realistic given funding challenges,” Cranson said.

The annual operations budget for pump houses is $2.8 million with annual maintenance costing $400,000, according to Cranson. The capital improvement/replacement budget is about $4 million. But the average cost to replace or upgrade a single pump house is $1.5 million.

Cranson noted Monday’s storm was of such historic proportion that “even with better pump stations, they still would have been overwhelmed.”

“The Interstate 696/I-75 flooding was due to a massive slope failure that took out all power supply to the pump station,” Cranson said.

“Some (freeway flooding) instances were due to there being such extreme flooding that the water had nowhere to go. The rivers were overflowing so after the water was pumped by the station, it came right back.”

Tons of debris in the form of mud, tree branches and litter also impeded the pumps.

In addition, scattered power outages left the pumping stations without electricity and scrappers had stripped some stations of wires, rendering them ineffective.

No state cost estimate

Spokeswoman Diane Cross said the Michigan Department of Transportation doesn’t have a solid assessment yet of the cost of cleanup efforts.

“We estimated $500,000 and that was just to get water off roads, manpower, people working all those hours; but it is too early to have numbers,” Cross said. “When we start talking about repairs, that will be another budget and another number and we don’t have that.”

The money will come from the state’s maintenance budget, the same pot that was tapped to help cover the costs of the brutal 2013-14 winter.

“It’s possible there may be some federal emergency reimbursement down the road,” Cranson said.

MDOT and the Michigan State Police don’t have a tally on the number of vehicles towed since many were towed under contract by local municipalities.

The Michigan Department of Transportation has announced the closing of the two right lanes of eastbound I-94 at Warren because of buckling pavement.

According to MDOT, the damage — which snarled traffic — likely was related to rains that submerged the freeway for more than a day.

“We didn’t have any initial problems on the freeway when we got the water off and reopened all the roads on Wednesday,” Cross said.

She said it’s unknown how long the two lanes would closed for repairs.

MDOT said there was a chance that the costs, which would come from the state’s general fund, would be offset by federal emergency funds.

Two lanes of Interstate 94 at Warren are closed to repair pavement that ... (David Coates / The Detroit News)