DETROIT (AP) — Gov. Rick Snyder issued a disaster declaration Wednesday for three Detroit-area counties struggling to recover from widespread flooding caused by heavy rainfall two days earlier.
Members of Michigan’s congressional delegation also were reaching out to make sure all federal, state and local resources are available for the hardest-hit communities in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties, Snyder said.
The disaster declaration “gives us the opportunity to look to the federal government to how we can apply for assistance and frees up state resources ... money to help with manpower,” Snyder told The Associated Press on Wednesday by phone from Menominee in the Upper Peninsula.
The storms dumped more than 6 inches of rain in places, flooding surface streets and many basements. Some manhole covers and sewer grates were pushed up and out of place.
Cars and other vehicles stalled out and became stranded in rising waters on interstates, highways and residential streets. Stretches of freeways were closed through all of Tuesday and Wednesday morning as the water slowly drained or was pumped away. Highway crews used heavy equipment to remove mud that cascaded down from embankments.
On Wednesday evening, authorities finally allowed traffic back on the region’s last flooded stretch of expressway, northbound Interstate 75 just south of the I-696 interchange in the northern Detroit suburb of Hazel Park. Several other expressway segments also returned to service Wednesday.
Two deaths in the Detroit suburb of Warren have been blamed on Monday’s storms. A 100-year-old woman was found Tuesday in her flooded condominium basement and a 30-year-old woman suffered seizures and died after her vehicle became trapped in high water.
Authorities also are investigating the death of a 68-year-old man who suffered an apparent heart attack while pushing a vehicle Monday through high water in Oak Park, north of Detroit.
Warren, just north of Detroit, was deluged with 5.2 inches of rain. Water and possibly sewage backed up in the basements of the Police Department, district court and City Hall, said Warren Mayor James Fouts.
He added that assessments were ongoing as to how much the cost will be in the city.
“I suspect thousands of homes have been damaged,” Fouts said Wednesday. “I am very pleased and appreciative that the governor has agreed to the request of a disaster declaration. It’s important that we help our own people in the Detroit area. We are quick to help flood victims in foreign countries. But how about flood victims in our own country?”
Snyder said the state also will go through damage assessments in all three counties.
“This was really a rain that wasn’t anticipated to be anything of that magnitude,” he said. “Now is the ongoing issue to understand the long-term consequences.”
State transportation officials started safety checks Monday evening on freeway infrastructure. Repair costs are expected to be significant and more cleanup is expected. Preliminary cleanup is estimated at $500,000.
Transportation spokeswoman Diane Cross said an investigation is ongoing to evaluate what went wrong Monday on Detroit’s roads. A final determination isn’t expected until after the mud, trash, abandoned vehicles and other debris is cleared.
“We have had an aging infrastructure, we’ve had some copper theft, we’ve had generators and pumps that are just overwhelmed by the large volume of rain that we’ve had,” she said. “There’s a lot of factors that are all going on at the same time.”
The state said the theft of copper from pumping stations used to clear water may have been a contributing factor in the freeway flooding. Copper theft for sale as scrap is a long-standing problem in the Detroit area, where it is also blamed in many streetlight outages.