'Now we wait for the storm': Great Lakes Water Authority says it's ready for more rain

James David Dickson
The Detroit News

Detroit — With staffers on duty "24/7," a network of contractors standing by and backup power sources handy, the Great Lakes Water Authority said Thursday it will be ready for the storms expected through Saturday.

Water authority officials discussed their preparations for potentially heavy rainfall hours after President Joe Biden granted a request from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for a major disaster declaration for the state following severe June rains and flooding that hit southeast Michigan.

A sign signals high flood water levels on Hanover Street at Telegraph Road in Dearborn Heights on June 26, 2021. With staffers on duty "24/7," a network of contractors standing by and backup power sources handy, the Great Lakes Water Authority said Thursday it will be ready for the storms expected through Saturday.

Navid Mehram, chief operating officer of the authority's wastewater division, said the authority is prepared for rains and winds anticipated Friday.

"All GLWA facilities are ready for this storm, and they're ready to operate at firm capacity," Mehram said during Thursday's briefing. 

Megan Varcie, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in White Lake Township, said that impending storms are likely to fall far south of Detroit, closer to the Michigan-Ohio border.

Several rounds of showers and thunderstorms are predicted and a hazardous weather statement for Thursday night said wind gusts could reach 60 miles per hour. 

Varcie said the "worst-case scenario" is 1 to 3 inches (of rainfall) on Friday, but most Metro Detroiters will see an inch or two. There are also wind gusts predicted, 20 to 25 miles per hour. Those will feel more like a "breeze," Varcie added. 

Rain is forecast through Saturday.

During heavy storms on June 25 and 26, limited utility supply at the Freud pumping station and an outage at the nearby Conner Creek pump stations in Detroit kept the system from reaching firm capacity, or its upper limit. 

Both Freud and Conner Creek have eight pumps each, Mehram explained. But its limit is 12 pumps at one time, or six at each facility. The extra pumps are there in case of pump failure. 

"We would never use all 16 pumps at one time," Mehram said. "These facilities are designed to move water, but there's a limit to that."

Only five of the six pumps at Conner Creek, and three of the six pumps at Freud, were available for use.

More:Water authority to investigate electrical challenges at Detroit pump stations

There were seven inches of rainfall in a 12-hour period. GLWA CEO Sue McCormick has referred to that storm as a "thousand-year rainfall event."

The storms caused flooding that closed freeways and caused basement backups for thousands of homeowners in Detroit, Dearborn and the Grosse Pointe communities. 

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department said this week that more than 24,000 households in the city have submitted flood damage claims following the June storms.

On Wednesday, GLWA announced the creation of a temporary committee to study the June flooding. It will hire an engineering firm and a law firm to report back on the system's failures.

That's in addition to an internal after-action review. That review has begun, Mehram said, and will take "60 to 90 days."

Mehram declined to predict whether there would be flooding with the conditions anticipated Friday, and said the focus was on preparation and quick response if troubles do arise.

"Now we wait for the storm," Mehram said.

jdickson@detroitnews.com