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Flood risk has West Michigan Red Cross focusing on disaster aid

A flood in the streets going up to the doorsteps of houses.
Lindsey Smith
Michigan Radio
Flooding last year in Grand Rapids.

Almost a year after Grand Rapids was slammed by major flooding, the Red Cross is rallying West Michigan aid groups in case this spring’s snowmelt leads to another big flood.  

Chip Kragt, of the Red Cross in Michigan, says the organization is getting updates from the National Weather Service.    

"There's a potential that this could be worse than last year," says Kragt.  "And since last year is so fresh in our minds, some of the attention that we weren't able to garner from the community last year when we started talking about flooding, I think now we've got their attention because of what happened last year." 

Kragt hopes that urgency means they cover their weak spots this time around.  

The Red Cross put up flood evacuees in shelters, gave people hundreds of meals, and sent out more than 5,000 home clean-up kits last year. But the organization was overwhelmed by how many people needed things like mattresses, water heaters, and furnace repairs – things they could have gotten sooner if all the local aid groups were better at talking to each other, says Kragt. 

"What we saw was, in the midst of the disaster, agencies were finding new resources. And that information wasn't always getting pushed so that the community could be aware of it." 

The Red Cross will hold three flood preparation meetings in West Michigan this month.  

Kate Wells is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently covering public health. She was a 2023 Pulitzer Prize finalist for her abortion coverage.