By Pat Maurer
A storm with high winds that dropped between four and six inches on the area between Saturday night and Monday wreaked havoc on mid-Michigan and many other areas in the state were hard hit as well.
Heavy storms overnight Saturday raised local rivers to flood levels while tornado force winds in Northern Isabella County downed power lines, trees, barns and buildings along a west to east corridor with especially heavy damage reported along Stephenson Lake Road and south of that area.
Flood warnings were issued throughout the area and area rivers including the Muskegon, Chippewa and Tobacco rose to levels higher than any reported since the September storm of 1986. Storm water flooded out roads, basements and homes along the rivers’ courses.
Clare County Emergency Services Director Jerry Becker said the Muskegon was “extremely high” Tuesday. “That water is just roaring,” he said, but he also reported that no homes along that area had been evacuated.
Because of a dam failure Tuesday morning at Wraco Lake in southwestern Roscommon County, Old US 27 between the County Line and Snow Bowl Road was closed, Becker reported. He said the dam failure had compromised a bridge across Wolf Creek, which drains Wraco Lake, and that Wolf Creek drains into the Muskegon in Clare County near Jonesville and Leota areas. Old US-27 was still closed at press time Thursday.
Becker said emergency workers put in a 27 hour shift when the water levels were highest. “We have two law enforcement units and one Department of Natural Resource unit monitoring the Muskegon,” Becker said. “The water from the dam failure will empty into the Muskegon.”
In Farwell, the rising water cascaded around the stressed dam there and roared downstream filling Clare’s Lake Shamrock and endangering homes there. Clare City workers raised a third flood gate in Clare’s dam Sunday morning sending even more water east down the Tobacco River’s course and raising the river to near record levels before Monday morning.
“Sunday night at midnight, Clare’s Shamrock Lake dam’s water level was at 8.9 feet,” Becker said, “the highest in 20 years.” He said City workers had reinforced the Clare dam with “rip-rock” (large stone) and that the dam was stable. By Tuesday morning the water level at the Shamrock dam had gone down to 8.1 feet he said.
Becker also said the water levels in the Little Tobacco Drain, which runs through Clare, were so high that one family had to be evacuated. “Their house was an island,” he said. “Ironically,” he added, “the project to improve the Little Tobacco Drain is scheduled to be on the County Commission agenda Wednesday.” He reported Thursday morning that the water level was down and the family had returned home.
Heavy rains also flooded a portion of the Clare Municipal Airport property and filled ditches to overflowing, cascading across Washington Road before adding more volume to the Tobacco which reportedly was up to bridge level, before the water began to recede again.
Drivers throughout the county were faced with flooded roads due to the storm. Becker said in total, 29 roads in Clare County became flooded, most caused by culverts washing out. “Some culverts get rotten and we don’t know until floodwaters wash them away,” he said. “There are multiple Michigan counties with the same problem and multiple counties requesting new culverts.” He said at least 25 in Clare County need to be replaced.
“We had one injury when a vehicle fell through the flooded roadway because of a collapsed culvert,” he said. He said 4.5 inches of rain reportedly fell in Leota and 4.8 inches were reported in Harrison.
Becker said Tuesday that four roads in Clare County were closed due to flooding damage:
*Jackson Avenue between Long Lake Road and Haskell Lake Road in Summerfield Township;
*Pine Road between Twin Lakes and Partridge in Winterfield Township;
*Arnold Lake Road between Harding Avenue and Old State in Summerfield Township; and
*Lake Station Avenue between Gladwin Road and Monroe Road in Freeman Township.
Becker added another closed road Thursday saying Gladwin road east of Lake Street on the border of Freeman and Redding Townships had been closed as well.
Waterways south and east of the area had even heavier flooding with rivers not scheduled to crest until Thursday and in some cases Friday.
Meanwhile an overnight snowstorm dropped between one and two inches of spring snow on the area as the waters in this area receded Monday night.