Wayne, Oakland counties tallying flood damage, say costs likely to rise

Ursula Watson
The Detroit News

The cost to Oakland and Wayne counties as a result of this week’s massive rain storm is nearly $550 million — and expected to climb.

Oakland County on Friday said damage from Monday’s deluge and subsequent flooding was an estimated $337 million. Wayne County officials also announced Friday that storm damage is initially estimated at $210 million.

While Macomb County has not come up with a figure yet, Warren Mayor Jim Fouts said Friday damage in his community, one of the hardest hit, was $90-$100 million. That is lower than his estimate earlier in the week, when he said damage was as much as $1.2 billion cash value.

Both counties, however, said the figures will grow as more assessments of swamped roads, flooded basements and damaged goods are completed. Wayne County’s figure excluded the city of Detroit.

“The damage estimate does not reflect the magnitude of the task that lies ahead for our residents to recover from Monday’s storm,” Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson said. “We have opened up the channels to request state and federal assistance.”

Berkley city officials said Friday 4,400 homes were affected by the storm. Ferndale officials say a significant part of their city was affected, as was Huntington Woods and other cities. Royal Oak has estimated 8,000 of 20,000 homes were flood-damaged.

Dearborn, in Wayne County, has estimated 40 percent of homes and structures in that city had storm damage.

Gov. Rick Snyder toured storm-damaged Royal Oak Middle School on Friday and helped homeowner Cathy Cahaney clear damaged items.

“It hits you right in the heart,” Snyder said on seeing street after street with flood-damaged items from people’s homes curbside.

He said neighbors need to help neighbors.

“That’s one the reasons I wanted to go out and volunteer was to show that we can go out and help each other during this.”

After helping out in Royal Oak, Snyder visited COMTEC, the Macomb County Emergency Response Center in Clinton Township, and thanked volunteers. He came to the facility for two reasons, he said.

“Macomb County has a lot of damage and it has done an outstanding job in responding,” Snyder said. County officials “have some tools that I think all of us can learn from in terms of how to do damage assessments and getting it faster.”

When asked about help from the federal government, Snyder said it is still early to get answers about relief packages.

“What I will say is that the federal government has been responsive so far,” he said. For example, a Federal Emergency Management Agency representative has been at the state emergency operation center all week.

Snyder has declared a state disaster declaration as a result of the story that dropped up to 6 inches of rain. County executives have also declared states of emergency, as have many cities. Snyder’s disaster declaration lets Michigan seek federal help and frees up state resources for communities hit hard by flooding.

It’s the second time this week Snyder has toured damage in Metro Detroit. The Republican has come under criticism from Democrats as out of touch for a radio interview in which he mentioned his vacation home had recently sustained damage when a tree limb fell on the roof.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Schauer visited Royal Oak on Wednesday to help clean a resident’s basement. Republicans accused Schauer of playing politics with a natural disaster by demanding an emergency declaration without seeing the damage firsthand.

Standing near a highway showing the impact of the storm, Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel on Friday warned this week’s floods have compromised a challenged infrastructure and lawmakers need to figure out how to pay for long-term repairs.

Otherwise, he added, roads will be in even worse shape next spring than they were this year.

“This is going to have a lasting impact for months to come,” he said at Fairfield Road and Interstate 696. “We have to make sure our legislators understand that they have to come up with a funding solution not just because of what we saw last winter but also because of what we are going to see next spring.”

Leo Ciavatta, superintendent of maintenance for the department of roads, said crews have addressed the most serious situations. He added the county and Michigan Department of Transportation will continue to inspect and repair roads and highways.

Area roads are “going to be far worse than what we saw this past spring, here in Macomb County and around southeast Michigan as result of this flood,” Hackel said Friday.

Hackel also sympathized with homeowners.

“How are people going to get their basements fixed?” he said. “ How are they going to recover the cost of what they have lost?”


The Associated Press contributed.