91.7 Ann Arbor/Detroit 104.1 Grand Rapids 91.3 Port Huron 89.7 Lansing 91.1 Flint
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Rivers are rising, Michigan communities brace for flooding

This post was updated as we learned news related to the rising waters in West and mid-Michigan. To see how events unfolded from Friday through Sunday night, scroll down and read up.

To read about current news related to the flooding, see this new post.

Sunday, April 21st, 9:30 p.m.

At nearly 22 feet, Michigan’s longest river is very near where the National Weather Service is predictingit will crest in Grand Rapids. The Grand River’s flood stage there is 18 feet.

City officials were confident the waste water treatment plant (that serves around a dozen other neighboring communities) will make it through the night, thanks in part to a massive sandbag wall lining the perimeter.

Over the weekend the city moved around $3 million dollars in equipment that’s not needed for the emergency to drier locations, just in case.

The flooding means the plant is processing more than triple the usual amount of water. Over the last three days, the city says the plant has treated 150 million gallons of water a day, compared to an average of 42 million gallons a day.

People are still being asked to conserve water; take shorter showers, hold off on washing laundry and dishes.

“We expect to be safe through the night,” the city’s Environmental Services Manager Mike Lunn said in a written statement.

“The combined performance of our flood walls, our pumps, professional staff, and volunteers has been truly amazing. We must, however, continue to be diligent in monitoring the situation,” Lunn said.

The city is no longer calling on people to help fill and move sandbags, for now.

“I can’t possibly imagine what else we could do to react to this situation,” Mayor George Heartwell said, “We realize that things could change dramatically in the next few days with more rain or if issues associated with structures – such as buildings, walls, or bridges - arise.”

The crest will head to Grandville soon, where the city library is now taking on some water in the basement.

In Lowell, upstream from Grand Rapids, the water is already beginning to recede. There’s been very limited access into the city, with a number of bridges closed. But the barricades are predicted to move off Main Street before the Monday morning commute.

Sunday 4:30 p.m.

Electricity is being rerouted in Grand Rapids because of the flooded Grand River.

Officials from Consumers Energy said Sunday there are four high voltage distribution lines that run just under the Fulton Street bridge.

On Sunday the Fulton Street bridge was closed. The water is high enough there’s concern big trees floating down the river could snag high voltage electrical lines just under the bridge

The water is high enough there's a concern that big trees or other debris floating down the river could snag the lines and cause safety concerns so they’ve de-energeized the lines. Electrical services have not been impacted because of the move.

Once the river recedes they’ll reopen the bridge. But officials couldn’t estimate how long that will be.

The Grand River is expected to crest Monday around 2 a.m. at 22.3 feet.

At a press conference Sunday afternoon Mayor George Heartwell thanked the hundreds of volunteers who’ve been filling and stockpiling 6,000 sandbags an hour over the weekend. He called for more volunteers this afternoon and evening.

“Even though we’re the most incredible volunteering city in the world, we need more,” Heartwell said, “Please help us protect our city.”

City-owned buildings have already been lined with the bags. So the 50,000 that remain are primarily for residents and business owners who need then, “or the possibility that the skies open up again this week, we get a ton of rain and we get a resurgence of these levels.”

Rain is in the forecast as early as Tuesday.

Michigan’s second largest city remains under a state of emergency because of significant property damage to a number of buildings in the downtown area.

It’s estimated that around a thousand residents in mid and west Michigan have been evacuated from their homes. Some have already been able to return.

Sunday 11:10 a.m.

Here's the updated Grand River forecast from the National Weather Service. The predicted crest in Grand Rapids has come down again. It's now expected to crest at 22.3 feet at 2 a.m. Monday morning. At the moment, the river is about half a foot from its expected peak.

Sunday 10:15 a.m.

The Grand River is at an official new record in the City of Lowell. Police there are urging only resident, business owners and emergency personnel to enter the city. Gawkers had flocked there yesterday to see the damage.

In Grand Rapids, MLive.com is reportingMayor George Heartwelll has ordered the Fulton Street closed “ASAP.” He’s concerned about debris in the river snagging a major utility cable.

Heartwell said the Consumer’s Energy cable in question runs lengthwise under the bridge and “powers all of downtown.” It runs alongside other city power and fiber-optic that are strapped to the underside of the bridge. Workers were on the bridge to pluck bobbing logs and other debris that could get under the bridge and snag the cable.
It could take up to 6 hours to full-de-energize the cable, Heartwell said. It’s not immediately clear what the wider effects of the cable’s de-energization are.

You canfind a map of the road closures here.

The city reports about 300 people are filling sand bags this morning. But they are worried this crew will get tired. The city is calling for fresh recruits to help this afternoon.

Saturday, April 20th,  4:45 p.m.

Michigan’s second largest city is under a state of emergencybecause of flooding.

Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell issued the declaration Saturday afternoon over concerns of significant property damage and potential safety issues.

“I do remain confident that we are handling and can handle the current situation,” Heartwell said.

Three major hotels along the Grand River downtown are pumping water out of their basements. One of the hotels, the Courtyard by Marriott, was evacuated this morning.

Credit Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
The JW Marriott Hotel pumps water from its basement onto Pearl Street in downtown Grand Rapids (pictured Saturday).

“This is not a breach in the flood wall, this is water coming up from the hydrological pressure that’s exerted coming up out of the ground and flooding their basement, I believe to a level of five feet or more,” Heartwell said. Electricity was cut off from the building for safety.

“The flood walls are holding … and we expect that the floods will be contained fully within those walls” Heartwell said.

The National Weather Service is now predicting the river will crest at 22.7 feet early next week. It’s the second time the crest prediction has been lowered. As of Saturday afternoon the level was around 21 feet.

Lots of people with strollers and pets were seen taking pictures of the flooding.

“Although there’s a temptation to get out and view this flood, view it from a distance please. Those waters are high and they’re fast and they’re unpredictable,” Heartwell warned.

City Manager Greg Sundstrom says city staff has been able to handle the flooding situation so far.

“I don’t think it’s really deterred our resources at this point, but we have great concern that we do not have extra resources to fish somebody out of the river right now,” Sundstrom said.

Heartwell said the emergency declaration probably doesn’t mean much for residents. It has more to do with potential state and/or federal funding if a “disaster” is declared in the future.

He’s asking residents to still conserve water when possible. He’s also asking for volunteers to help fill and disperse sand bags on Sunday.

Michigan State Police helicopters have done fly-overs in the region to help assess the flooding damage.

Saturday 2:00 p.m.

Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell has issued a state of emergency until the waters recede.

“City of Grand Rapids officials are greatly concerned that significant property damage, injury and losses may be sustained through flooding on public and private property and within local streets and rights-of-way.”

Saturday 10:30 a.m.

Floodwaters are causing problems in downtown Grand Rapids. Smoke was reported outside of the Courtyard Marriott. This tweet is from Aaron Aupperlee of the Grand Rapids Press:

Aupperlee tweets the smoke has now subsided and was from a generator. Pumping equipment was sent to the Marriott.

Aupperlee reports people were evacuated from the Courtyard Marriott. Garret Ellison of the Grand Rapids Press reports people are being evacuated from the Plaza Towers Apartments in downtown Grand Rapids.

Here's what the parking garage looks like:

Michigan Radio's Dustin Dwyer posted this photo of the Grand River this morning:

Credit Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio

Friday, April 19th, 11:23 p.m.

Two rivers in Michigan are showing potential for "major flooding" - the Tittabawassee in Midland, and the Grand River at Lowell and Ionia.

The Tittabawassee in Midland will be reaching it's crest shortly. Here's a look at the waters there from NBC25:


And here's the prediction for the Tittabawasee River from the National Weather Service:

The Tittabawassee River in Midland will be cresting early Saturday morning.
Credit NWS
The Tittabawassee River in Midland will be cresting early Saturday morning.

The Grand River is expected to cause 'major flooding' in the towns of Ionia and Lowell.

More from MLive:

Business owners in downtown Lowell are stuffing sandbags and bringing items up from their basements as flooding is expected over the weekend. Representatives of a “vast majority” of the 30 Main Street businesses in downtown Lowell met with city leaders and police on Friday, April 19, to discuss the expected flooding.

"Local state of emergencies" have been declared in Lowell, Midland, and Kent County.

The predicted crest for the Grand River in Grand Rapids has declined for a second time.

It is now expected to crest at 22.7 feet early Monday morning. Which would still break the high water record in that city. Here's the latest prediction from the National Weather Service:

The predicted rise of the Grand River at Grand Rapids.
Credit NWS
The predicted rise of the Grand River at Grand Rapids.

Friday, 5:02 p.m.

A "local state of emergency" was signed in Kent County today. It's the first step in receiving federal help should people need it.

More from the county's press release:

Kent County is experiencing the worst flooding in more than a century. The flooding crest is still perhaps two days out, and hydrologists are saying the water will not recede below flood stage until the middle of next week. Kent County Board Chairman Dan Koorndyk signed a Declaration for a Local State of Emergency today. This will allow us to receive damage assessment resources from the state, and is the first step for possible Federal Emergency Assistance.

Michigan Public Radio Network's Rick Pluta reports the state is now getting involved too.

The state's emergency operations center has been activated in response to weather-related emergencies in several Michigan counties. Midland, Osceola, Ottawa and Newaygo counties have all declared a local state of emergency due to storms and severe flooding. The emergency operations center tracks events and helps coordinate responses.

Friday, 3:54 p.m.

Here's a video of water being pumped out of the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel. Sand bags are being used to try to keep rising floodwaters out.


And this video shows the rising waters near the Gerald Ford Museum:


Friday, 2:04 p.m.

Smaller rivers and creeks in West and mid-Michigan are expected to recede today, but mainstem rivers, such as the Muskegon and the Grand, will continue to rise until they hit their peak later this weekend or early next week.

MLive's Aaron Aupperlee put together this map of road closings in West Michigan.

When you come upon a covered roadway, authorities warn "turn around, don't drown!"

View West Michigan road closures due to flooding in a larger map

Friday, 12:25 p.m.

A number of communities in West Michigan are dealing with major flooding of both the Grand River and Muskegon River. Some people have been evacuated from their homes.

Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell’s biggest concern is the ability of the sewer system and wastewater treatment plant to handle all the water. He’s asking residents to conserve water when possible.

"So if people were to cut by 10 percent, 20 percent, it’s still just a fraction.  But I suspect that every little bit helps, so shower with a buddy," said Heartwell.

The neighboring suburb of Wyoming is under a state of emergency. Amway’s corporate headquarters in nearby Ada will close tonight through Tuesday because of flooding.

The National Weather Service expects the rivers to crest this weekend. Below we show the forecast for the Grand River in Grand Rapids.

Friday, 11:43 a.m.

Sand bags are being deployed in downtown Grand Rapids in preparation for rising flood waters. MLive reports city workers are putting sand bags outside the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel:

As workers piled the sandbags at the western end of Lyon Street around 10 a.m., the hotel used a pump to rid its basement of water that had since flooded inside. Chad LeRoux, executive director of marketing at the hotel, said while a small amount of water had entered the basement, it was having little impact on day-to-day operations. “We have some water that is coming into the basement but the pumps are taking it out just as effectively as it’s coming in,” he said. “No other operations are really affected by this.”

Friday, 9:37 a.m.

West and mid-Michigan communities are bracing for high water as rivers and creeks in the area continue to rise.

The rivers are expected to crest late into the weekend.

Here's the latest forecast for the Grand River:

The Grand River in Grand Rapids is expected to crest at 8 p.m. this Sunday.
Credit NWS
The Grand River in Grand Rapids is expected to crest at 8 p.m. this Sunday.

You can get the latest updates about flooding in Michigan on theNational Weather Service's page:

Rainfall totals from Wednesday afternoon through Thursday night ranged from 1 to 3 inches in most areas. A heavier swath of rain fell from the Lake Michigan shore at Holland and Grand Haven east in the Grand Rapids area. In this area, (Ottawa, Allegan and Kent Counties) some 4 to 5 inch rainfall totals were found. Flooding will continue on larger rivers like the Grand and Muskegon into next week with crests occurring late in the weekend. Smaller creeks and streams will begin to recede today as widespread rainfall has ended and only scattered showers are expected today. Flooding of low lying areas and farmland will likely continue today and slowly recede over the weekend. If you live along a stream or river closely monitor levels today and into the weekend. Be prepared to move to higher ground.

Mark Brush was the station's Digital Media Director. He succumbed to a year-long battle with glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer, in March 2018. He was 49 years old.
Lindsey Smith helps lead the station'sAmplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
Related Content