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Houghton Co. dealing with "catastrophic" flooding

Residents are beginning the process of recovery after flash flooding rocked the western Upper Peninsula Sunday morning, leaving dozens of sinkholes, impassable roads, and reports of damage to hundreds of homes in Houghton County. The rainfall that caused the flooding was the heaviest ever recorded in the area.

Matt Zika, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Marquette, called the flooding catastrophic, dropping between seven and eight inches of rain on the area in just six hours.

A half-crushed sauna sits precariously on rocks
Credit Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
Rushing floodwaters swept Cynthia Drake's sauna from her back yard into her front yard.


“When we look back at the historical records and rainfall recordings, the amount that fell in the Houghton-Hancock area, those are the largest amounts we’ve seen within a 24-hour time period, and like I said, most of that fell within probably about six hours," he said.

Cynthia Drake is a mother of three who lives in Ripley, just east of Houghton-Hancock. She runs a life-coaching business out of her home, and holds community events there.

Parts of her house are buried under rocks and sediment. It’s missing a large part of its foundation, and the floors are covered with three inches of mud. Her sauna was carried from her backyard to the front by rushing water.

She woke up at 3 a.m. to the sound of her refrigerator falling over, and turned on the light to find water rising up her stairs.

“When I called 911, they didn’t even know if they could get to me because of the roads," she said. The water was so high that she couldn’t open her front door, but fortunately first responders could. “I don’t know how they did it," she said.

Heavy mud covers Agate Street in Houghton
Credit Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
The view up Agate Street in Houghton.

Like many in the area who’ve found themselves in a flood zone for the first time, she doesn’t have flood insurance. She hopes there will be financial assistance at the federal level.

“I might be one of the worst houses, and my neighbor down here, but there’s been a lot of damage in the area, and it’s a very low-income area so I would hope we’d get some help up here”.

Michigan’s State Emergency Operations Center was activated yesterday, and Governor Rick Snyder has declared a state of disaster for Houghton and Menominee Counties. No official damage assessments have been completed yet.

Kaye is an alumnus of Michigan Tech's environmental engineering program. She got her start making maps for the Traverse City-Based water news organization Circle of Blue, and, since then, she's been pretty devoted to science communication and data visualization.
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