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My Town: Plainfield Township prepares for potential spring flooding | Community Spirit

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My Town: Plainfield Township prepares for potential spring flooding
My Town: Plainfield Township prepares for potential spring flooding

PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP, MIch. (Plainfield Charter Township) --- Are you prepared for a flood?

With both the Rogue River and the Grand River winding through Plainfield Township, floodplain residents have been dealing with spring flooding as long as they’ve lived in the township. 

Spring 2013 was a challenge with major flooding on both rivers.  This year, Plainfield Township officials Peter Elam, Rick Solle and Township Superintendent Cameron Van Wyngarden met with residents from the Riverbank, Willow, Konkle and Abrigador floodplains to discuss concerns and a game plan.  Representatives from Consumers Energy, DTE Energy, Kent County Emergency Management, the Plainfield Township Fire Department, NOAA, the Kent County Road Commission, the Red Cross, the Salvation Army and the Kent County Health Department also attended.

“We’ve been working with the National Weather Service and local communities since late January in preparation for the possibility of spring flooding," said Jack Stewart with Kent County Emergency Management.   "We have been monitoring the snow pack, water saturation of the snow pack, as well as precipitation projections for the spring.  Two statewide webinars have been held to discuss this issue across the State of Michigan.”

Stewart went on to say, “What has occurred so far, and continues to occur, is the best case scenario according to the weather service.  We are experiencing three to four days of melting followed up with two to three days of freezing temperatures.  This allows the water to flow into the river and continue into Lake Michigan.  Hopefully if that trend continues we may avoid serious flooding this spring. We’ll continue to monitor the situation and communicate with the communities along the river.”

Speaking for the National Weather Service NOAA, Mark Walton, service hydrologist and hydrologist program manager, agreed. 

“Right now we’ve got the best possible conditions for minimal flooding in 2014.  Warm days are melting the winter snow pack slowly, and cool nights are preventing too much melting in a 24-hour period.  With very little rain, we’re able to keep up with the excess water.  That could change overnight with heavy rain storms, but right now, we’re looking very good,” he explained.

Floodplain residents know to expect road closures and to never drive on roadways flooded with water.  The water may be much deeper than it appears, as the road bed or bridge may be washed out, making what looks like a four inch puddle actually a four foot deep gully.  Tom Byle, Kent County Road Commission, reminded everyone to respect all road closure barriers that may be posted to warn of danger.  He also asked anyone who finds water on a roadway without barriers posted to report it to the road commission.

Aaron Kantor, Consumers Energy, explained that submerged electrical meters and sockets require the evacuation of an entire area and shut-off of power. 

“Public safety is a top priority,” he said.  “A submerged electrical meter can energize the surrounding flood waters, seriously hampering rescue attempts.” 

Additionally, gas lines can be damaged and propane tanks can be torn off their footings. Ground water can be contaminated.  

Plainfield Township floodplain residents at the meeting wanted to know what could be done to stop amateur rescue efforts and gawking, citing property damage with boat wakes and the cost of rescuing curiosity seekers.  Plainfield Township is contacting the Kent County Sherriff’s department to discuss higher fines and additional penalties which may be put into effect.

If Plainfield Township floodplain areas have to be evacuated this year, the Red Cross can bring together numerous agencies to provide shelter for people and their pets as well as free food, water and cleaning supplies. 

“Last year, we all worked together-- the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, United Way, the Kent County Animal Shelter, Kent County Emergency Management-- providing temporary housing, food, water, even clean-up supplies to anyone who needed it, for as long as they needed it.  It was a fantastic group effort, and we can do it again this year if we need to,” said Lisa LaPlante, spokeswoman for the Kent County Health Department. 

LaPlante went on to say that there are three free shelters for displaced people in the Grand Rapids area: One on Alpine Avenue in Comstock Park, one in Lowell and one in Kentwood.  All three are open to flood evacuees. 

The Kent County Animal Shelter provides free temporary shelter for pets. The Red Cross and the Salvation Army provide free food and bottled water.  The Salvation Army also provides flood kits, comfort kits, and they have Crisis Intervention Teams as well as an emotional/spiritual care program that serves multiple faiths.  The United Way provides a Call 211 number for emergency updates in your area.  If you call 211 from Kent County, you will be connected to Kent County emergency personnel who can offer assistance and provide flood information.

Floodplain residents know clean-up can be the longest part of the recovery process.  It can take a week for flood waters to recede in and around the homes before they can begin the clean-up of mud and debris and start repairs.  Pumping water out of the basement during flooding can result in the collapse of the basement walls due to hydrostatic pressure.  Damaged walls and foundations as well as electric, propane and gas connections may need to be checked or repaired and in some cases permits may be required.

“We do not require the testing of submerged wells after flooding occurs, but it’s highly recommended,” added LaPlante. 

Flood insurance is available. 

“If you have flood insurance, do not let it lapse.  It may be much more expensive to sign up again,” added Elam.

Several residents questioned high rate increases. 

Elam said, “Flood insurance rates are high in part because riverine flooding is tied to hurricane flooding which often sees larger losses nationally.  The House and Senate have recently approved a bill that will at least temporarily cap these rates. If this bill passes, it could also mean refunds to some floodplain residents.”

More information on flood insurance can be found at www.floodsmart.gov

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