Flood Warnings Issued as Rains Turn Heavy

Tuesday, February 20, 2018, 8:32 am
Alice Dreger

Above: Warnings from the National Weather Service for East Lansing.

The National Weather Service has issued a flood warning expected to remain in effect until at least Thursday morning. The combination of heavy rains and melting snow is causing flooding along area streams, rivers, and some roadways. MSU is now preparing for the possibility of having to put flood barriers in effect along the Red Cedar River to protect buildings in low-lying areas.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), “At 6:09 a.m. EST, Doppler radar indicated bands of showers and thunderstorms producing heavy rain around the warning area,” which includes much of south-central Michigan. “Up to two inches of rain has already fallen… Another two to potentially 3 inches of rain is expected through tonight. Rainfall rates may locally top a half inch per hour in the heaviest bands.”

Yesterday MSU’s Executive Vice President for Administrative Services, Satish Udpa, sent out an email warning of the flood. The area often floods to some extent in spring—the photo below shows the area near the MSU Library in April 2017—but this year is expected to be exceptional.

Says Upda, the Red Cedar “is predicted to crest at 9.5 ft. on Friday afternoon. If this prediction holds, it will be the 7th largest recorded flood event in MSU’s history.”

Upda indicates that MSU staff “will deploy flood barriers if the river rises to 9 feet or above, which might become necessary for this event….Occupants of buildings on the river, in particular the IM Sports Circle, Jenison Field House, Hannah Administration Building, Computer Center, and Kresge Art Center, are advised to examine basements for seeping water or leaks.”

East Lansing Police Deputy Chief Steve Gonzalez reminds drivers to “"avoid driving or walking through flood waters. Unseen hazards can exist below the water level.” If you come upon a flooded area where you had hoped to drive or walk, “turn around, don't drown.”

Gonzalez notes that six inches of moving water can knock a person off his or her feet, and only twelve inches of moving water can move a car. Gonzalez asks that people “avoid playing or exploring near swift moving water.” Flood water at this time of year will be cold and can quickly result in hypothermia. (More information about flood safety is available at this government website.)

During past spring floods, East Lansing’s Department of Public Works has asked people to be on the lookout for ice blocking storm drains in the streets. If you see a blocked or clogged drain, you can contact the Department of Public Works at 517-337-9459. After normal business hours, call the non-emergency number of the East Lansing Police Department at 517-351-4220 and choose option 1.