DEARBORN – On Monday, cars’ windshield wipers could barely keep up with the rain. Streets turned into swamps. And submarines were more useful than cars in getting under bridges. It was the rainiest day in almost a century.
Major roads, including the Southfield Freeway, I-94, I-75 and I-696, were blocked by stretches of water that cars could not get through. By Thursday, I-94 was still closed at Michigan Avenue and I-75 was not cleared at Eight Mile Road.
The 4.57 inches of rain that fell on Southeast Michigan on Monday are unprecedented in the recent history of the area.
In Dearborn and Dearborn Heights, the system that handles the rainwater is connected to the sanitary sewage system, so when the heavy rain clogged the sewage system, it caused residents’ basements to flood with filthy water from the sewers.
Making the matter worse, in thousands of homes in both cities, the basements are furnished living spaces, not merely used for storage.
Dearborn estimates that nearly 40 percent of all residential and commercial property in the city has been damaged by the rainfall and the flooding of the sewage system.
James Murray, the director of the Dearborn Department of Public Works, told the city council at a meeting on Tuesday that the department received more than 1,000 phone calls about flooding.
Dearborn is urging residents to file insurance claims on their damaged property, even if they are not covered for floods.
The city allowed residents to set their flood-damaged materials on the curb, even if it is not Public Service Day. The items are picked up by the city for no extra fee.
“Trash and all loose debris should be bagged in heavy-duty trash bags. Extra trash trucks from Republic Services will be dispatched each regular trash day. These additional pickups will take place until Friday, Aug. 22,” The city said in a statement.
Residents can also carry their items to the Departments of Public Works’ yard at 2815 Greenfield. The yard will be open from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Aug. 16 and Aug. 23.
The city said in the press release that it started sending crews to people’s homes on Thursday to assess the damage. Tips on cleanup and damage claim forms can be found on Dearborn’s website, cityofdearborn.org.
Police warned Dearborn residents of home repair scams and against inflating their insurance claims.
“A disaster also lures crooked building contractors. They’ll exploit the confusion and emergency conditions to try and fleece you and your insurance policy,” the police department announced in a statement, advising residents to make sure that the contractors they hire are legitimate.
The swamped streets were littered with broken-down cars that could not handle the rain on Monday.
Hassan Khalifeh’s car broke down in Romulus. It took the road crews five hours to get it off the street. His car stopped in the rain around at 6 p.m. and remained there until 11.
“Tuesday, it took me two hours to get to work,” said Khalifeh, who works as a manager at an intellectual property firm. “Everything is closed. It looks post-apocalyptic.”
About 17,000 residents in the area ended up without electricity after the storm. Oakwood Hospital’s Emergency Room partly lost power and some patients had to be relocated to the second floor.
On Tuesday, the Meridian Law Group, a Dearborn-based firm, held a town hall meeting at Hype Athletics center in Dearborn Heights to tell people what they should do to recover the damage. About 300 people attended.
A doctor from Oakwood Hospital gave the attendees sanitary tips, advising them to get rid of items that came in contact with sewage water.
Attorney Tarek Beydoun urged people to file claims with their cities for the property damage from the flooded basements. The firm is offering to help residents fill out and send their claim forms free of charge.
He said a large number of claims increases the likelihood of federal intervention.
“As to possible insurance coverage, you are advised to make a homeowners insurance claim for damage to your property, regardless of whether or not your agent believes you have coverage,” said Beydoun.
He added that insurance agents might mislead clients into thinking they are not covered.
“While most insurance agents are good, honest people, we need everyone to take precautions and file their claim,” he explained. “When you have a claim number and if you are denied, you may seek counsel on the question of whether or not you were entitled to coverage. Pictures and receipts are your friends.”
On Wednesday, Gov. Snyder issued a state declaration of disaster for Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties, opening the door for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to intervene and help Michigan cope with the devastating results of the flood.
“The flooding that continues to impact Southeastern Michigan is a disaster in every sense of the word,” the governor said in a statement. “As local and state authorities wortk around the clock to deal with this situation, it is clear that the significant personal property and infrastructure damage, coupled with ongoing threats to public safety, warrants this state declaration. By taking this action, the state can fully coordinate and maximize efforts to support its local partners.”
Wayne County and the City of Dearborn also declared a state of emergency.
“By issuing this declaration for Dearborn, we are supporting the efforts of Wayne County and the state to request federal resources for the region and our community,” Mayor Jack O’Reilly said. “We will be adding to the state and county’s data that illustrates the tremendous impact this record rainfall had on our city and our residents.”