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Published: Thursday, 12/1/2011

Flooding forces Michigan bridge closings

BY MARK REITER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
The River Raisin floods a section of Iffland Road just north of Blissfield, Mich. The River Raisin floods a section of Iffland Road just north of Blissfield, Mich.
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DUNDEE, Mich. — Swollen from heavy rains, the River Raisin spilled over its banks, encroaching businesses and homes with rising floodwaters and closing the heavily-traveled M-50 bridge.

Police Chief David Uhl said the rising river was on course to break a 25-year-old record for the Monroe County village.

“If it keeps up the way it is going, it will probably be the greatest flood that we have every had,” Chief Uhl said.

The Michigan Department of Transportation closed the M-50 bridge about 4 a.m. Thursday to vehicle and foot traffic after floodwaters surged over the river banks on the south end of the crossing into village streets.

The river in Dundee is expected to crest early Friday afternoon at 652.4 feet (above sea level), or nearly two feet above what is considered flood stage, according to the National Weather Service in Detroit. The record is 653.2 feet, set Feb. 26, 1985.

Chief Uhl said the water will likely remain high Friday for six to seven hours before it begins to recede.

The flooding is a legacy of a strong late-autumn storm that brought just over 3 inches of rain in some areas of the region, as well as an early snowfall to Toledo and southern Michigan between late Monday and early Wednesday.

Dundee Community Schools were open Thursday, but school officials said the buildings will be closed Friday because of the bridge closure and high water areas in western Monroe County.

The village brought in a load of sand and the county sheriff’s office sent trustees from the jail to help volunteers to fill them. More than 750 of the sacks has been distributed in the village to protect homes and businesses from rising water.

Ken and Annette Burghardt, whose Toledo Street residence is in the hardest-hit area of the village, near the south riverbank, fled about 8:30 a.m. Thursday with some clothing and food after their home was surrounded by water.

The couple went to the village offices to load up their pickup with sandbags, which they hoped could be used to build a wall on the porch to keep water from entering the house.

Water nearly reaches the roof of a picnic shelter in Ellis Park along the River Raisin in Blissfield, Mich.  Water nearly reaches the roof of a picnic shelter in Ellis Park along the River Raisin in Blissfield, Mich.
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“I’m expecting the water to go to at least the second step,” Mr. Burghardt said.

Chief Uhl said rising waters on the south side of the bridge caused the Dundee Post Office to be evacuated and workers moved the mail to the post office in Ida. The Old Mill Museum and the Dundee Area Senior Citizens were also closed after floodwaters entered the buildings.

Having lived through the flood in March, 2009, Tramayne Fouts said she knew what precautions to take to keep water from entering Gator’s Pet Supplies, where she is a manager. She had a sump pump in the store and was ready to turn it on if needed. Merchandise had been removed from the floor and lower shelves.

“I am a little nervous. We will probably be here all night pumping the water out,” she said.

Workers with Michigan Gas Utilities went door-to-door on Toledo and Franklin streets Thursday, shutting off service to residences where water was approaching.

Upriver in the Lenawee County village of Blissfield, state highway officials closed the U.S. 223 bridge late Wednesday after water in the river reached the crossing deck.

The river began receding Thursday afternoon, but officials said it could be several days before the highway — which carries more than 12,600 vehicles a day — can be reopened.

MDOT spokesman Kari Arend said the bridge cannot be reopened to traffic until after the waters recede and the structure can be checked for damage that might have occurred from logs hitting it in the fast-moving current.

“We are concerned about a large debris field that washed up under the bridge,” she said. “We will have to get inspectors out there and inspect the bottom of the bridge to make sure there is no damage.”

The waters spilled the banks, covering the community park and flooding yards of residences, but there were no evacuations, said Blissfield Police Chief Jane Kelley.

The National Weather Service said the water level reached 685.3 feet, two feet above flood stage, but that the river should fall below flood stage early Saturday afternoon.

Northwest Ohio was also hit hard by this week’s precipitation. The rainfall concluded the wettest November — 7.15 inches of precipitation — in Toledo’s history and put the city on the brink of having the wettest year on record. Just 2.45 inches of precipitation is needed in December to tie the 47.84-inch record set in 1950, and Toledo’s normal December precipitation, including the moisture in snow, is 2.68 inches.

Although not as dire as in southern Michigan, widespread river flooding continued along rivers throughout neighboring northwest Ohio Thursday, with major flooding reported along the Tiffin River near Stryker and moderate flooding occurring along the Maumee and St. Joseph rivers.

At 3 p.m. Thursday, the Tiffin was 6.4 feet above its flood stage at the Stryker gauge. Many roads in the area were closed, including U.S. 20A between Burlington and West Unity, Ohio.

The National Weather Service said the Tiffin was dropping, but offered no prediction as to when it would go below flood stage. Lowland flooding is expected to continue well into next week along some of the rivers.

Other roads closed because of flooding as of late Thursday included U.S. 24 along the Maumee in Providence Township, U.S. 20 between State Rt. 295 and Centennial Road, and State Rt. 105 along the Portage River between State Rt. 582 and U.S. 23.

Blade staff writer David Patch contributed to this report.

Contact Mark Reiter at:

markreiter@theblade.com

or 419-724-6199.



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