Detroit Hit With Torrential Rain, Massive Flooding

by Natasha Lasky, ODP Staff Writer

Over the weekend, seven inches of rain fell onto Detroit and Wayne County, Michigan, bringing devastating flooding that fully submerged cars on freeways and damaged neighborhoods. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency for Wayne County and Detroit is seeking federal disaster assistance to help relief efforts.

Some suffered some type of wire damage, some had water up to the top of their tires, some had it up to windows, and some were completely submerged,” Lieutenant Michael Shaw, spokesman for the Michigan State Police, told the New York Times. “A lot of people thought they could make it through the water, but there was just no way.”

Gary Brown, the director of Detroit’s Water and Sewerage Department, emphasized that there was so much rain that the water had to flow into streets and basements. He said in a press conference: The intensity of these storms exceeded the design standards for pump stations and combined sewer overflow facilities serving the Detroit region.”

Why This Matters: In the last twenty years, the number of major floods more than doubled, from 1,389 to 3,254 and the incidence of storms grew from 1,457 to 2,034. In the Midwest specifically, climate change is expected to bring increased flooding as the atmosphere begins to hold more moisture.

The last time Southeast Michigan had such flooding was in 2014, after four to six inches of rain fell over a period of four hours, according to the National Weather Service. In the face of these increasing weather disasters, city infrastructure has to accommodate the excess water.


When It Rains, It Pours: Flooding was so bad in metro Detroit that it disrupted operations at Ford Motor Company as well as Jeep’s shipment yard.

Homer Roark, an assistant manager at a Firestone Complete Auto Care in Detroit told the New York Times that his shop never turns away customers, but on Saturday, they had to turn away 15. “There’s just not much we can do when it’s this bad,” he said.

Back out on the freeways, Michigan State Police had dive teams out making sure that there wasn’t anyone trapped in the vehicles. By 3 p.m. Saturday, the authorities counted about 350 vehicles that had been damaged in the flooding, and they rescued 50 drivers. 

  • Meanwhile, Gary Brown estimated that hundreds, maybe thousands, of residents are experiencing flooding in their basements and sewer backups.
  • This isn’t normal here,” said Lt. Michael Shaw.Every freeway in the county had some level of flooding.”

But Gov. Whitmer encouraged Detroit denizens to focus on the silver linings: ”We’ve overcome tremendous challenges this year because Michiganders are a tough people who know that we are all in this together,” she said in a statement.


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