“My toilet was a geyser”: Washtenaw County reviews historic June flooding

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WASHTENAW COUNTY, MI – Powerful storms in late June dumped nearly 6 inches of rain over parts of Washtenaw County in 24 hours, with a few short intense gusts likely reaching levels of at least “300 years,” according to a debriefing presentation county officials.

“The main takeaway is that it has rained a lot and rained a lot more than what the systems are designed to withstand,” Water Resources Commissioner Evan Pratt told the County Commissioners Council Thursday evening. September 16.

The June 25-26 flood ended a “lucky” streak for Washtenaw County, which had not seen a 100-year storm in 120 years of rain data recorded from gauges the county is at. current, said Pratt.

The rains displaced some 42 people in an apartment complex in Ypsilanti township and several houses had to be evacuated. Authorities declared a local state of emergency in the days following the storms.

Areas of Ypsilanti, Ypsilanti Township and southeast Ann Arbor experienced 5.5 to 5.7 inches of rain in 24 hours. This is approaching a 200-year-old storm, a designation that indicates a 0.5% chance that this level of rain will occur in any given year, but does not mean the region will not see storms. as powerful in the near future.

Inland flooding has prompted nearly all of the storm damage claims, and the vast majority of flood reports have come from older neighborhoods, Pratt said.

Sewer backups made up more than half of the roughly 400 flood reports, although Pratt warned that the numbers likely clouded the full picture, as homeowners might be reluctant to report the damage they would have disclosed if they had. sold their house.

Many are due to private infrastructure issues, Pratt said, and the local government has its hands tied in helping these residents, although funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are available.

Deadline for residents to apply for federal disaster assistance in line or by phone at 800-621-3362 on October 13.

The photographer’s studio in the basement ruined by the floods in the Ypsilanti district

“Every basement that has been flooded will be flooded again, I can guarantee part of that,” Pratt said, warning that the risks and consequences of extreme storms are accelerating.

Many homes built between the late 1960s and early 1980s have “foundation drains,” which are directly connected to sanitary sewers, which are not designed to carry rainwater. “My toilet was a geyser,” said one account of a sewer backup in June, Pratt said.

The fastest customer service with incidents like these results from reporting them online to a local water authority or by calling, allowing officials to sort through serious incidents, Pratt said.

At least one local supplier, the Ypsilanti Community Utility Authority, has sent each of its clients in Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township a letter advising them to consider flood insurance.

The level of outdoor flooding seen in June was inevitable because many pipes are designed to handle rainy events of only 10 years, Pratt said, sharing a map of the flood risk of roads in southeastern Michigan, marked with orange and red lines, representing high and medium risk routes.

“Never having a flood is totally unfeasible,” said Pratt, adding that much of the county’s job is to renovate aging infrastructure that is sadly not prepared for future rainfall.

About 42% of stormwater investments over the past five years have been made in a small group of census tracts with an above-average black population in the county, mostly in Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township, according to a report. equity analysis conducted by Pratt’s office.

Officials hope to coordinate efforts to draft a county-wide climate action plan with the Water Resources commissioner’s intentions to identify key disaster mitigation priorities ahead of future storms.

“There will always be another storm,” Pratt told Commissioners.

More information on Ann Arbor news:

Washtenaw County accepts $ 24.7 million in COVID stimulus spending. Why some said it’s not fair

How Will Washtenaw County Become Carbon Neutral? A $ 200,000 climate plan is the roadmap

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