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Gov. Whitmer declares state of emergency for Wayne County flooding

Wayne County
via Facebook, used with permission
Wayne County crews pumped water away from Telegraph Road in Dearborn Heights as the Ecorse River threatened to flood the road on Thursday.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency in Wayne County on Thursday night, just hours after Wayne County Executive Warren Evans requested her to do so.

Wayne County had declared a local emergency over flooding that peaked early on Wednesday, but remains a threat in some communities that are just beginning to take stock of the damage.

Whitmer’s declaration opens up more state resources to assist flood victims. It also raises the possibility of federal aid to help with disaster recovery.

“Wayne County has no general fund resources to assist homeowners,” Evans wrote in his declaration, saying the situation “has been determined to seriously threaten the health and safety” of some county residents. “Local resources are not sufficient to cope with this emergency situation.”

Whitmer said the state “is committed to do all it can to speed the recovery of the affected communities in Wayne County.”

According to the National Weather Service, more than 3.5 inches of rain fell across the region from late Tuesday through the early morning hours on Wednesday. Some of the hardest-hit areas include downriver communities such as Lincoln Park, Taylor, and Allen Park. Dearborn Heights and Romulus were also flooding hot spots.

“There was just too much rain, in too short of time given already elevated water levels in many bodies of water, like the Ecorse Creek,” Evans said. “Since the rainfall, we’ve been working with our local partners to assess the flooding and damage, which is likely to increase, particularly if there’s more precipitation.”

Wayne County Director of Homeland Security Tadarial Sturdivant warned on Wednesday night that while floodwaters had receded somewhat, streets in parts of the hardest-hit areas remain submerged. He cautioned that drivers can still become stuck on flooded streets, or hit debris or objects hidden underwater.

Sturdivant is in charge of coordinating with local, state and federal authorities to respond to requests for assistance. He said that so far, communities have been requesting everything from equipment to deal with flooded basements, to emergency traffic signals and sandbags. Damage varies across the area, with shoreline communities and the lowest-lying areas reporting the most damage.

Sturdivant cautioned that a lot depends on how much precipitation falls overnight. “I would not say that the height of the danger is over,” he said. “That damage does not go away when the water goes away.”

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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