Severe Floods Overwhelm Detroit Area; Slow Vehicle Production

August 13, 2014

A woman died when her vehicle became stranded in 3 feet of water in suburban Detroit, after heavy rain across southeastern Michigan left many roads impassable.

Fearing more motorists could become stranded a day after a storm dumped more than 6 inches of rain in some places in and around Detroit, the state warned commuters against driving in affected areas Tuesday morning.

Warren Mayor James Fouts said roughly 1,000 vehicles had been abandoned in floodwaters in the suburb where many roads were closed after 5.2 inches of rain fell Monday. He said he was seeking state help for residents dealing with the “overwhelming” and “catastrophic” flooding.

Fouts said a woman apparently died of cardiac arrest when her vehicle got stuck in floods. He did not name the woman or say when she died.

The Associated Press left a message for Fouts seeking more information.

National Weather Service meteorologist Dan Thompson said the rainfall peaked in suburban Detroit at 6.25 inches. He said 4.57 inches fell at Detroit Metropolitan Airport in Romulus, breaking the previous record for Aug. 11 at the airport of 2.06 inches in 1964.

“The Detroit metro area … had a long period of rainfall and there were some embedded thunderstorms that enhanced the rainfall rates,” Thompson said.

Scattered showers and thunderstorms were expected, with about 1/4-inch more of rain forecast.

Portions of Interstates 75, 94, 696 and the Lodge and Southfield freeways were closed Tuesday morning. Other roadways remained under water, while mud, debris and vehicles blocked traffic elsewhere. Motorists were stranded on flooded roads in the Flint area.

Michigan State Police troopers assisted stranded motorists and cleared abandoned vehicles. The state Department of Transportation assessed damage to roadways and used front-end loaders Tuesday morning to clear mud from some freeways.

Lt. Michael Shaw said a dive team was checking Interstate 94 at Michigan Avenue and planned to check the interchange for interstates 696 and 275. He said there had been no reports of people missing in the floods, but that police wanted to be sure.

Gov. Rick Snyder, who was in the Upper Peninsula on Tuesday morning, said additional state troopers, road crews and other resources would assist in the recovery and cleanup. He planned to survey the affected area by plane Tuesday.

“We’ve taken a dramatic series of actions,” Snyder told WWJ-AM.

In the Detroit suburb of Royal Oak, the Detroit Zoo was closed after heavy rains and flooding damaged facilities and equipment, including the Arctic Ring of Life exhibit that houses polar bears, seals and arctic foxes.

“All animals are secure and there are no concerns with animal welfare at this time,” the zoo said in a statement.

Auto Manufacturing Affected

The record-setting rainfall slowed vehicle production and closed some facilities, automakers said.

General Motors closed its Tech Center in the Detroit suburb of Warren on Tuesday because of flood damage. The company told the 19,000 engineers, designers and others who work at the 330-acre campus to stay home while facilities are cleaned.

GM spokesman Bill Grotz said the flooding didn’t appear to cause severe damage to the historic campus, which was designed in the early 1950s by architect Eero Saarinen.

GM said production at local plants wasn’t affected. But flooding did cause slowdowns at Detroit’s other two automakers.

Four Chrysler plants — including one in Detroit and three in the suburbs of Warren and Sterling Heights — were flooded.

The company halted operations at its Sterling Heights Assembly Plant at 9 p.m. Monday night. Chrysler said road closings caused by flooding have slowed deliveries and caused high absenteeism.

Three other Chrysler plants were running Tuesday morning, but at a slow rate.

Ford also slowed production Monday at four suburban Detroit plants in Dearborn, Wayne and Sterling Heights. Assembly plants in Chicago and Louisville, Kentucky, were also impacted because of flooding at Michigan-based suppliers.

Ford said all of its plants were running normally Tuesday morning.

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