Rain chances continue in southeast Michigan; WB I-94 reopens

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

An urban flood warning expired for some metro Detroit communities Tuesday evening as more rain hit areas still recovering from a weekend of flooding, but more rain is possible Wednesday.

"It looks like the better chances of more widespread rain and storms is probably going to be to our south on Wednesday" before a front arrives, bringing cooler air, meteorologist Steve Considine with the National Weather Service in White Lake Township said. "There’s a potential here for locally heavy rain, but it looks like it’ll be much more localized. ...I'm not expecting another event like what we had over the weekend in the near future."

Interstate 94 in Dearborn and Detroit had been closed between Michigan Avenue and Interstate 96 after dozens of abandoned and sunken vehicles littered the freeway and had to be towed. 

The Michigan Department of Transportation reported Tuesday afternoon that the westbound I-94 lanes  would reopen but the eastbound side remains closed.

Many streets look like this with water-damaged items piled in front of homes in Grosse Pointe Park on Tuesday, June 29, 2021.

Strong storms blew across the region Tuesday afternoon and evening.

Early totals included 1.19 inches in Saline, as well as 1.9 inches falling in 2 hours in Marine City in St. Clair County, the weather service reported.

Between ½ to 1 inch of rain had already fallen by 3:09 p.m. and flooded roads and underpasses in Warren, Livonia, Troy, Southfield, Taylor, St. Clair Shores, Pontiac, Romulus, Mount Clemens, New Baltimore, Flat Rock, Richmond, Grosse Pointe, Romeo, Downtown Detroit, Canton, Detroit, Sterling Heights, Dearborn and Royal Oak.

Winds topped 40 mph in Wayne, Macomb and Washtenaw County, while tree limbs were toppled in Grosse Pointe, Plymouth, Imlay City and Grand Blanc, according to the NWS.

Power lines were also down in Whitmore Lake and Lapeer County.

Early Wednesday, DTE Energy was reporting more than 50,000 customers without power.

A motorist navigates through flood waters covering Fairholme Road in Grosse Pointe Woods Tuesday afternoon, June 29, 2021.

Earlier Tuesday, a line worker fixing a line in Detroit died after coming in contact with a wire, the utility announced.

Trees, large limbs down

In Grosse Pointe Park, where crews have been clearing flood debris over the weekend, city officials reported they were aware of "numerous trees/large limbs that have fallen down and are working on getting them removed. Please be safe and avoid areas where crews are working."

Damage from last weekend's rainfall forced some businesses to close. The city's Green Brain Comics was not slated to reopen until Wednesday as staffers cleaned the store, according to its Facebook page. 

Dan Merritt, who co-owns the business with wife Katie, estimated as much as 3 feet of water in its lower level meant they had to toss as many as 10,000 books in multiple dumpsters. New equipment for a live streaming studio also was destroyed, he said.

Merritt is awaiting word from his insurance company on the value as well as what is replaceable, albeit at a heavy cost. But he wondered about the looming threat of more rain for his neighbors and fellow business owners, including one who reported 7 feet of water in their space.

"They’ve all been hit and worse than what we’ve got," he said. "Our issues are pretty much contained. We can be operational tomorrow. But I'm worried about everybody else."

On Twitter, state officials reported the Dearborn Secretary of State office remained closed Tuesday "due to flooding and a power outage that is delaying remediation. Customer appointments for that office will be honored at offices on Bagley St. and W. Grand Blvd. in Detroit, where staff has been reassigned."

This area is marked off where a wire came down on Vernor in Grosse Pointe Park on Tuesday, June 29, 2021.

Dearborn's official Facebook page urged residents Tuesday to quickly remove flood-soaked items from their basements to prevent further contamination.

"Serving residents impacted by the flooding, city crews from DPW and the Property Maintenance and Development Services Department are out removing damaged materials from curbsides in east Dearborn neighborhoods, setting aside their regular assignments to focus on the tremendous need with an all-hands on deck effort," officials wrote. "Some city employees have volunteered to work on this heavy duty task on behalf of our residents."

Some residents noted the strain of the ongoing storms and damage.

"Street after street after street, it looks like a war zone in Grosse Pointe and Detroit. So many businesses in The Village and residents all around us. So sad," Sherry Gillespie Allor wrote on Facebook. "We flooded at Posterity Frame and Art Gallery but so many..are so much worse and to think all the businesses were just able to reopen without restrictions."

Zeb Foxworth considered buying sandbags to protect his Dearborn Heights home as waters rose nearby. The water had receded by Tuesday, but the new round of downpours left him wary and keeping an eye on his belongings.

"Until this rain makes up its mind from now until Thursday – everything is staying above ground," he said. "When it comes back up to the doorstep, it’s just nerve-wracking."

Through Tuesday, Detroit Metro Airport in Romulus had recorded 5.14 inches of rain for the month, or about 2 inches above normal, weather service data shows.

The wettest June on record was in 1892, when 8.31 inches fell, according to the weather service. The second was 7.04 in 1987, while the rest of the top 10 notched totals above 5.90. 

Floodwaters fill Beaufait Avenue in Grosse Pointe Woods on Tuesday afternoon.

The latest bout of bad weather comes as the state waits on federal assistance to recover from historic weekend flooding in Metro Detroit.

Detroit received more than 6 inches of rainfall in about five hours on Saturday, a record downpour that outstripped Detroit's 4.57 inches of rainfall in August 2014 that triggered another flooding emergency and federal aid. Some metro areas saw 7 inches. 

Communities across Metro Detroit, and especially in Wayne County, are still assessing damages, and Wayne County communities are trying to beat a July 6 deadline to turn over preliminary estimates to the county government.

Beyond personal losses, at least 28 of Metro Detroit's 140 freeway pump stations didn't have power or had mechanical problems Saturday afternoon, resulting in closed and flooded freeways.

Groundworks, a foundation services company, offers the following advice for homeowners seeking to avoid flooding:

Tips Include:

  • Make sure the gutters and downspouts are clear. Use downspout extensions to move the water well away from the foundation.
  • Raise utilities. Water heaters, washing machines, and dryers can be raised above the expected flooding levels. Likewise, electrical outlets and wiring can also be permanently moved higher.
  • Move valuables. Store your valuables in waterproof containers. When possible, store them on an upper flow or at least move them when flooding appears imminent.
  • Install flood sensors. These sensors can detect rising water and alert you at once. They can be added to your security system or connect with a smartphone app.
  • Add flood vents. These allow water into your basement or crawl space to alleviate the buildup of water pressure against the foundation walls. This mitigates the greater damage of collapsing walls.
  •  Install backflow valves. Make sure any drainpipes entering your house have backflow valves to prevent sewage from backing up into your home.
  • Waterproof your basement or crawl space. Add an internal drainage system along with a sump pump with battery backup. This will prevent any leaks before they can develop into serious flooding.
  • Check for signs of mold left behind from heavy rains or moist conditions.