March 22 • 02:47 AM

Cave-in closes portion of M-53 between I-69 and Dryden Road

Parking lot at fairgrounds takes on the proportions of a shallow lake after heavy rainfall on Saturday night. The storm washed out roads, caused power outages and floods for homeowners and businesses alike. photo by Randy Jorgensen.

August 12, 2009
TRI-CITY AREA — A local state of emergency has been declared across the rain-soaked area of Lapeer County by the county's office of emergency management which may help residents qualify for low interest loans to make flood damage repairs.

Residents are advised to call their township, village or city officials to report flood damage by this Friday, August 16, says Emergency Management Director Mary Stikeleather in a press release.

Continuous rain and strong wind gusts Saturday and Sunday resulted in flooded streets and basements, downed limbs and utility wires and power outages across the area—and the problems are growing.

A portion of M-53 near Hollow Corners Road began to cave in around 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday and had local and state officials scrambling to reroute traffic. Northbound M-53 is closed at Dryden Road, and southbound the road is closed at I-69.

Michigan Dept. of Transportation bridge manager Steve Katenus was among the first at the scene and could not say when the road will reopen for travel.

"The road will be closed until the area can be stabilized," Katenhus said. "There was an immediate need to shut it down for safety reasons. It will be opened again as soon as it is deemed safe to the public."

Katenhus said the area of roadway had been slated for replacement in 2014.

"That could happen sooner than that based on this incident," said Katenhus.

Officials in Almont and Imlay City report that emergency crews worked overtime throughout the weekend clearing roadways and ensuring the public safety in the storm's aftermath.

Almont wastewater treatment plant operator Norm Bliss said the Clinton River overflowed into Almont Community Park, adjacent to the village's wastewater plant.

Bliss said when he arrived for work early Sunday, the water level was above the park's volleyball nets. The water was so high that floating debris and limbs initially blocked his entrance to the plant, he said.

"We couldn't even get into the plant," said Bliss. "The water came right up to our doors—almost up to some high voltage wires, which could have been very dangerous."

Bliss noted that the plant did not experience another overflow of wastewater into the river, as has happened in the past.

"Our rain gauges showed we had eight inches of rain," said Bliss. "A lot of it between the hours of about 1 a.m. and 3 a.m. Our lift stations were out of power so we had to hook up generators. Our St. Clair (Street) lift station was completely under water."

Village Manager Gerald Oakes said some resolution has to be found to flooding at the lift stations during power outages.

"We've been getting more than our share of weather anomalies," said Oakes. "We're probably going to have to install generators at each of our four lift stations. In this case, the motors were under water so they wouldn't have worked."

Oakes said there were several reports of flooded basements from residents and traffic signal outages resulted in Almont police officers directing traffic flow.

Oakes added that the water at the park was powerful enough to pick up a 200-pound picnic table and move it more than 100 feet from its original location.

Flooding also damaged about 3,000 volumes of used books at the ReLiteration book store, located west of Van Dyke near the banks of the Clinton River.

Business owner Janis Grant said water damage has ruined most of the books on the lower shelves, including her photography, architecture, poetry and quilting sections.

"To have to throw away a hundred-year-old book leaves me feeling terrible," said Grant. "These things are difficult to replace."

In Imlay City, Fire Chief Kip Reaves said firefighters and emergency crews responded to 18 calls over the weekend. He said most of the runs involved downed power lines.

"Most of the wires were brought down by trees, limbs and DTE and Verizon (telephone) poles that had been snapped off by the wind," said Reaves. "Where the wires were live and arcing, we safety-taped the areas and waited for DTE crews to show up. These incidents use up a lot of resources and time."

Reaves said Imlay City DPW crews were out at 2:30 a.m. Sunday, removing and cutting fallen tree limbs and debris from the city's streets and setting up barricades.

"Imlay City police, DPW, wastewater treatment plant personnel and our firefighters were all very busy over the weekend," he said.

Reaves noted that as many as four basement walls were reported to have caved in from the force of the moving storm water.

"One elderly man on Muir Road in Almont Township had to be removed by a flat bottom boat, so his daughter could get him his daily medicines," said Reaves. "Several homes on Muir, Webster and Hall roads became islands, with rushing water on both sides."

Meteorologist Megan Babich of the National Weather Service in White Lake said that despite evidence suggesting otherwise, there were no reports of straight-line winds hitting the Tri-City area. However, she did not rule out the possibility of isolated heavy wind gusts.

"We did not hear about any strong winds in that area," said Babich, who added that the I-69 corridor is often the recipient of very heavy rainfall.

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