St. Clair County remains under flood warning as river keeps rising

Ariana Taylor
The Detroit News

A flood warning remains in effect through Tuesday morning for St. Clair County as ice accumulation continues to flood homes and businesses along on the St. Clair River.

The St. Clair County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management said water levels rose as much as 6 inches in St. Clair, and 3 inches in Port Huron and Fort Gratiot in the past 24 hours.

Champion's Auto Ferry, which services vehicle transport between Algonac and Harsens Island, is temporarily out of service, Wednesday afternoon, Feb. 3, 2021, as St. Clair County has issued at Flood Warning with ice jams on the river.

The emergency management office said the rising water levels appears to be caused by an increase in restrictions or ice bridges that began Saturday afternoon and are causing jams that restrict water flow.

"It's the ice that's still forming," said Mark White, deputy director for the emergency management office. "All the water can't get past a certain point between Marine City and Port Lambton on the Canadian side."

The National Weather Service's flood warning for St. Clair County continues until 10 a.m. Tuesday. The Weather Service said the arctic air that is now over the region is likely worsening the ice blockage that remains in the St. Clair River.

Coast Guard officials said calls from residents began last week about flooding threatening homes and businesses along the river. They deployed four ice breakers on Wednesday.

The United States and Canadian Coast Guard Cutter operations are ongoing with seven ice breakers.

Commercial vessels going up and down the river in recent days also have helped clear some of the ice, White said.

"The more boats we get out there, the better," White said.

Water levels in Algonac have been steadily lowering over the past 24 hours, and Port Lambton is experiencing a slow decline in levels, the United States Army Corps of Engineers reported Sunday.

For Valerie McBrayer, a Clay Township resident who was born and raised in Algonac, seeing the damage that the flooding has caused is "devastating."

"It is a yearly thing to happen in this area. Typically we don't see the flooding like this though ... This year was exceptionally different because the water levels were already so high and it happened so quickly," McBrayer said.

Snoopy's Dog House, a pub and grill in Algonac, had up to 11 inches of flooding and the parking lot was covered in ice. The stand-alone business has been open since 1981 and is one of the few establishments surrounded by homes and cottages, co-owner Heather Arneil-Roberts said.

"The biggest damage was having to close again, but we had to do a lot of cleaning and ice removal in the parking lot," she said. "With the help of our customers, we were able to get stuff up before the water got super high. The golden tee game is the only thing that didn’t work when we turned everything back on."

Despite the damage, Arneil-Roberts said they were lucky compared to others.

"With the ice and water levels, this could happen again," she said. "We have had floods before a bad one in the 80s, but I believe this is worse."

St. Clair County Board of Commissioners Chairman Jeffrey Bohm on Wednesday signed a local state of emergency declaration, allowing the county to provide funding and support for the cities and townships coping with widespread damage from flooding that resulted from ice accumulation.

White said the declaration paves the way for the county to seek additional funding help from the state if it exhausts emergency dollars being made available at the county-level.

The communities primarily affected are Clay Township, Algonac, Cottrellville Township, Marine City, East China Township and the city of St. Clair. Other areas further north are experiencing challenges as well, White added.