Flooding severe in Clare County

February 22, 2018

JB Electronics building  picture by Dawn McDonald

JB Electronics building
picture by Dawn McDonald

By Pat Maurer

Flooding earlier this week prompted Clare County Emergency Services Director Jerry Becker to seek a state of emergency declaration for Clare County.

The rain had stopped but the flood waters were still high Wednesday morning following two days of rain that dropped up to two inches on mid-Michigan, and caused widespread flooding according to the National Weather Service.

The rain and snowmelt, compounded by the still frozen ground caused rivers and streams to rise and caused massive flooding problems for many central Michigan counties including Clare, Isabella and Gladwin County residents and businesses Tuesday.

In a Tuesday statement, Clare County Emergency Management Director Jerry Becker said they were evaluating flooding conditions throughout the County. He said, “It was determined that there was immediate concern for public safety and property within Clare County.”

Becker said they made the request around 6 p.m. Tuesday for a disaster declaration due to the problems throughout the county.

Farwell School bus  in the ditch Tuesday  (from 9 & 10 post)

Farwell School bus
in the ditch Tuesday
(from 9 & 10 post)

Following that report, he announced that a review of the damages would start Wednesday morning. He asked citizens and business owners to call 211 to report damages due to the flooding.

Thursday morning Becker said his Emergency Services team would be investigating the damages at 14 properties. He said the damages across Michigan would be in the millions, but he was unable to estimate the damages in Clare County as yet.

A release from Becker’s office through the Clare County Sheriff’s Department added, “Clare County Emergency Management damage assessment teams are being deployed throughout the county today from 9:00a.m. –  5:00p.m. for assessment of damages to homes, businesses and roads. We are asking citizens to continue to utilize 211 to report any damage to property. If you have experienced well or septic issues, please contact Central Michigan District Health Department at 989-539-6731 or via their website at www.cmdhd.org. We would also like to remind all residents to stay out of flood waters and not attempt to drive through flooded roadways.”

The flooding closed and damaged roads throughout the county. Roads closed included: Maple Grove between M-115 and Old State (closed indefinitely); Leghorn between Elm and Surrey; Athey Avenue between Browns & Adams Roads; and Clarence Road between Helmlock and Bear Avenue.

Although no evacuations were issued, Central Dispatch announced the opening of a shelter at the Hayes Municipal Complex, 2055 E. Townline Lake Road in Harrison for residents who had to leave their homes due to the flooding. Those needing help were told to call 211 for more information.

Becker said residents should go to www.cmdhd.org for guidance on well, septic, food safety and prevention of mold following a flood. He urged county residents to watch for continuing developments on Facebook.

Harrison flooding near downtown Photo by Chelsea Davis

Harrison flooding near downtown
Photo by Chelsea Davis

Sheriff John Wilson posted an update Wednesday afternoon that said, “Instead of calling 911 to report flooding please report it to ‘211’.” We stress for people not to venture into flooded areas, there may be unseen obstacles and debris that may hinder you.” He added, “The Hayes Township Hall is open as a shelter at this time for those that need food, water, and/or shelter.”

Deteriorating conditions on some back roads caused all of the Clare-Gladwin Regional Education Service District Schools to close on Wednesday: Clare, Farwell, Harrison, Beaverton and Gladwin schools.

Tuesday, reportedly icy back roads caused “a few” Harrison school busses and three Farwell busses to slide into ditches on their morning runs. No one was injured during the incidents and Harrison reported that they had issued a statement that students who were unable to get into school Tuesday would be excused.

Farwell Superintendent David O’Bryant issued a statement Tuesday that said, “This morning we had three buses get stuck during their routes. The roads are checked each morning and of the hundreds of miles our buses travel each day we cannot pre-check every stretch of road. We will continue to refine our process for checking the roads and making the decision to cancel, run on a two-hour delay, or have school as normal. The roads are checked around 5:00 AM and it appears that the conditions of the roads deteriorated while the buses were on their routes. Please be assured our main priority is always student safety and we always work to ensure their safety.”

As the rain fell and water rose throughout Clare County, many fields and property and some homes filled with rain water and snow melt.

Possible pollution of local wells due to the flooding was also a concern. The Central Michigan District Health Department reported that persons with wells should be concerned if the well head or pump was submerged in water. “The health department encourages owners to have their well tested if submersion occurred,” and asked citizens to visit the health department website or call (989) 539-6731 for information.

Clare City Department of Public Works Director Al Jessup said Wednesday that the Tobacco River rose to 8.5 feet by 12:50 p.m. Wednesday. The legal level is 7.6 feet he said.

The flood warnings remained in effect for Clare, Isabella, Gratiot, Osceola Oceana, Mecosta and Montcalm counties until 1 p.m. on Thursday. A forecast on 9 & 10 News said “Flooding continues with an increasing likelihood of road closures and possible flooding in homes and other buildings.”

The flood warning for Gladwin Ogemaw and Iosco counties was in effect until 6:15 Wednesday. The forecast said, “The heavy rain that moved through over the past few days combined with runoff from snow melt will continue to produce rises on area rivers and streams as well as some localized flooding.”

The Muskegon River in Newaygo County near Rogers Dam was impacted by an ice jam causing a rapid rise. Downstream near Croton, the river was at moderate flood levels. It was expected to rise to near 11.8 feet by Wednesday afternoon, and fall back below flood stage Saturday. The warning is in effect until late Saturday night.

A flood warning for the Chippewa River below Mt. Pleasant was issued. The river was reported in the minor flood stage, with the river continuing to rise. The warning was issued until 1 a.m. Friday.

The Manistee River near Sherman in Wexford County was also issued until 7 a.m. Thursday for the area just downstream of the M-37 Bridge.

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