USA and Canada – Cities of Detroit and Windsor Hit by Floods After 150 Mm of Rain

Torrential downpours brought flooding to parts of South East Michigan, in particular the Detroit metro area, and neighbouring parts of Ontario, Canada, with the city of Windsor mostly affected.

Around 150 mm of rain was reported in parts of Southwestern Ontario. Downtown Detroit recorded 115 mm of rain.

Several drivers had to be rescued from the floods along Detroit freeways. Officials in Windsor and nearby Tecumseh have declared a state of emergency.

Michigan

Freeways around Detroit metro were closed after heavy rain of over 4.5 inches (115 mm) caused surface flooding. Police and fire departments say that around 12 flood rescues had to be carried out, most of them drivers trapped in their vehicles. Local media reported that flood water up to 12 feet deep had blocked one freeway underpass.

Repeat of August 2014

Similar flooding hit the Detroit metro area between 11 and 12 August 2014 after thunderstorms brought over 5 inches (127 mm) of rain. Highways were brought to a standstill and AAA received over 700 calls in just 12 hours.

More recently, highways around Detroit were flooded after heavy rain on 16 August this year.

So why do the highways around Detroit metro keep flooding? The Detroit Free Press blames the problem on malfunctioning pumps that are supposed to clear excess water from the low-lying freeways around Detroit. The pumping infrastructure is old, unable to deal with more frequent and intense storms, with electronics likely to cut out when overworked. When operating correctly, the pumps remove water from the highways and pump it into the local drainage system, which itself has limited capacity.

Warnings

A flash flood warning was issued by National Weather Service in Detroit early on Thursday, 29 September for the Detroit metro area and beyond.

Image: NWS
Image: NWS

Further heavy rain is expected on Friday, 30 September. NWS said:

“Low pressure will continue to funnel moisture into Southeast Michigan through Friday. Multiple rounds of rain and thunderstorms, some heavy, may lead to flooding. An additional 1-3” of rain is expected in the watch area Thursday afternoon through Friday evening.”

A flood watch is in place for areas of South East Michigan. NWS warned of “flooding of urban areas (especially near Detroit), low-lying areas, streets, basements (and) rapid rises on rivers, creeks, and streams.”

NWS has issued flood warnings until further notice for the Rouge River in Detroit and the Lower Rouge River in Inkster and Dearborn.

Rainfall Totals

National Weather Service in Detroit report that Downtown Detroit recorded 4.5 inches of rain during the storm.

Wayne County

  • Westland – 2.60 inches
  • Livonia – 2.85 inches
  • Romulus – 3.01 inches
  • Downtown Detroit – 3.20 inches
  • Dearborn – 4.34 inches
  • NNE Downtown Detroit – 4.50 inches

Oakland County

  • Commerce – 2.46 inches
  • West Bloomfield – 2.75 inches
  • SSW Novi – 2.81 inches

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Ontario

Just across the border in Canada, local officials in Windsor and Tecumseh, Ontario, declared a state of emergency after massive flooding hit the region Thursday.

Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens feared that the flooding has caused considerable damage to homes and buildings and declared a state of emergency to access government support for those affected.

Environment Canada said that rainfall amounts since Wednesday evening have varied from 83 mm at Windsor Airport to 150 mm or greater in Tecumseh. Areas farther southwest such as Harrow and Amherstburg have received significantly less precipitation so far.

A Red Level (highest) warning remains in place for heavy rain in the Windsor – Leamington – Essex County area. According to Environment Canada,

“Several rounds of showers and thunderstorms will continue to affect Essex County tonight (Thursday 29 September) and through Friday. Additional rainfall amounts will be highly variable, but are expected to be in the 30 to 70 mm range across the county.

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Flood Summary

Last updated: October 3, 2016
Event
Michigan, USA and Ontario, Canada, September 2016
Date
September 29 to September 30, 2016
Type
Flash flood
Cause
Extreme rainfall

Locations

A - Detroit (United States)
B - Windsor (Canada)
C - Tecumseh (Canada)

Magnitude

Rainfall level
83 mm in 24 hours
Windsor, Ontario, Canada - September 28 to September 29, 2016
Rainfall level
115 mm in 24 hours
Detroit, Michigan, USA - September 28 to September 29, 2016
Rainfall level
150 mm in 24 hours
Tecumseh, Ontario, Canada - September 28 to September 29, 2016

Damages

Buildings damaged
1,700
Ontario - September 28 to September 29, 2016