Widespread flooding in Detroit area submerges cars at Jeep plant

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has declared a state of emergency for metro Detroit’s Wayne County after extensive rainfall has crippled the region and created widespread flooding that appears to have extended to Stellantis’ Jefferson North vehicle assembly plant, where the Jeep Grand Cherokee is produced. A viewer sent video to Detroit’s WXYZ-TV that appears to show many vehicles under water:

We’ve reached out to Jeep for more details and will update this post when we hear back. Jefferson North is a 3-million-square-foot facility on 283 acres. It was recently retooled and modernized to build the next-generation Dodge Durango and Jeep Cherokee, part of a $4.5 billion Stellantis investment in its Detroit-area factories. 

More than 6 inches of rain fell Friday in parts of the Detroit area, overloading sewer systems. Some streets were completely flooded, while low-lying sections of freeways saw water deep enough to cover car tires and hoods.

Flooding in Wayne County has been so bad this weekend that some motorists facing impassable roads have simply abandoned their vehicles. WXYZ reported there were “hundreds of vehicles that need rescuing.”

State police were removing vehicles still stranded on freeways, while checking to make sure no one remained in partially submerged cars.

A number of pumps designed to remove water from area freeways also were overloaded by the heavy rain, said Diane Cross, a spokeswoman for Michigan’s Department of Transportation.

“There is no way to keep pumping out water when more water is coming in,” Cross said.

Freeway catch basins also get clogged by leaves, branches and other debris which contributes to flooding. They have to be cleared out manually, she added.

Whitmer’s emergency declaration empowers Michigan State Police and the state’s Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division to coordinate their response and recovery efforts. Whitmer also activated the State Emergency Operations Center earlier Saturday.

“We are continuing to work closely with emergency response coordinators and local leaders across the state to address widespread flooding,” Whitmer said. “The State Emergency Operations Center has been activated to coordinate our state’s response as we rush resources to affected areas, and the state of emergency declaration will help counties access even greater assistance. I want to thank everyone who has been working 24/7 to clear roadways, restore power and communications, provide emergency services, and make sure our neighbors have what they need to get through this storm. We’ve overcome tremendous challenges this year because Michiganders are a tough people who know that we are all in this together.”

As of Saturday morning, 49,000 customers were without power, but by afternoon DTE had cut that figure to 34,000. The utility’s outage map showed scattered pockets of homes without power. The utility said it was having trouble getting its teams everywhere they needed to be due to the flooding.

Additional counties across southern Michigan could be added to the declaration as more heavy rain and strong winds are forecast over the weekend, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s office said Saturday.

More than a dozen counties in mid-Michigan and southeastern Michigan remained under a hazardous weather outlook and a flood watch Saturday, according to the National Weather Service in White Lake Township.

The Detroit area also was under a flood warning Saturday.

“What’s being forecasted for tonight is one inch of rain, and if we get one inch of rain we’ll be just fine,” said Gary Brown, director of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department. “But if we get three inches of rain it’s going to be a problem with the ground being as saturated as it is and the system being able to manage that.”

Hundreds and possibly thousands of homes in Detroit had flooded basements or water in those basements and sewer backups, Brown told reporters Saturday.

“The intensity of these storms exceeded the designed standards for pump stations and combined sewer overflow facilities serving the Detroit region,” he said. “With this much rain, there’s nowhere for the water to go other than flooding streets and basements.”

The National Weather Service offers these cautions:

During a flood

  • Turn off utilities if instructed to do so. Disconnect all electrical equipment.
  • Do not walk-through moving water. Six inches is enough water to knock you down.
  • Do not drive in flooded areas. Six inches of water can cause you to lose control and two feet of water can sweep away your car. Remember: Turn around, don’t drown.
  • Listen to local media reports for information about if the water supply is safe to drink.
  • Avoid contacting flood waters because they can be contaminated by hazardous liquids and may contain sharp debris.
  • Report and stay 25 feet away from downed power lines.

Driving in flood conditions

  • Six inches of water will reach the bottom of most passenger cars causing loss of control and possible stalling. A foot of water will float many vehicles.
  • Two feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles including sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and pickups trucks.
  • Do not attempt to drive through a flooded road. The depth of water is not always obvious. The road bed may be washed out under the water, and you could be stranded or trapped.
  • Do not drive around a barricade. Barricades are there for your protection. Turn around and go the other way.
  • Do not try to take short cuts — they may be blocked. Stick to designated routes.
  • Be especially cautious driving at night when it is harder to recognize flood dangers.”

Contains material from The Associated Press

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