CENTER LINE, Mich. (AP) — Opportunists picking through flood-damaged belongings placed along streets in the Detroit area have become a source of frustration and anger for residents trying to clean up their homes.
Tyler Scott, 20, of Center Line, whose basement flooded in heavy rains Monday, said trash pickers looking for scrap metal to sell or anything else of value are preying on the misfortune of others. It has led to street-side arguments and attracted police attention.
“This is our life,” Scott said. “It’s not right.”
Paul Myszenski, the Center Line public safety director, told the Detroit Free Press he was investigating complaints about trash-pickers from residents whose emotions are already frayed by the unexpected deluge.
Jerry Holstine, 68, was among those checking out items placed along the roadside for trash collection, such as metal chairs. Holstine said he is a retired Chrysler worker and that he picks through trash for metal to sell and that it keeps him busy.
“I’m just taking metal, not taking anything but metal,” said Holstine, of Sterling Heights.
On Wednesday, Gov. Rick Snyder issued a disaster declaration for three Detroit-area counties. Monday’s storms dumped more than 6 inches of rain in places, flooding roads and many basements in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties. Assessors in Warren estimate that 18,000 homes in the Macomb County city sustained some type of flood damage after 5.2 inches of rain fell.
“It is more widespread than anyone thought,” Warren Mayor James Fouts said. “Every neighborhood has been hit.”
Warren has about 134,000 residents, all of whom are being told to place flood-damaged items along their curbs. Sanitation crews are working 12-hour days and will work over the weekends on pickups.
“Our goal is to have the city cleared by next week,” Fouts said Thursday. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime storm, and all hands are on deck to clean up.”
Water and possibly sewage also backed up in the basements of Warren’s police department, district court and City Hall.
George Bretz told The Macomb Daily that he was frustrated by the flooding. The finished basement of his 1967 home was fouled with 16 inches of water, ruining almost everything.
“It just makes me sick,” Bretz said. “I don’t know what the problem is. We never had flooding before.”
Cars and other vehicles stalled out and became stranded in rising waters on interstates, highways and residential streets. Stretches of freeways were closed as the water slowly drained or was pumped away. Highway crews used heavy equipment to remove mud that cascaded down from embankments.
Officials closed two lanes of eastbound Interstate 94 on Detroit’s east side Thursday because of buckling pavement that may be related to the flooding, The Detroit News and WWJ-AM reported.
Detroit’s Department of Homeland Security will assess flood damage in the city to help determine if federal assistance will be available for residents and businesses, though the Detroit Police Department said in a release Thursday, “there is no indication that federal funding will be made available to assist with flood damage to basements.”
Two deaths in 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 Monday while pushing a vehicle through high water in Oak Park, north of Detroit.