City Advises Homeowners on Flooding as MSU Prepares for Red Cedar’s Rise

Wednesday, February 21, 2018, 7:38 am
Alice Dreger

Above: The Red Cedar River yesterday at about 4 p.m. near the MSU Library.

With the city under a flood warning from the National Weather Service, East Lansing’s Director of Public Works (DPW) is advising homeowners to be in touch with his department if they are experiencing flooding in their basement that might be related to drainage problems. Meanwhile, with the National Weather Service increasing its estimate of how high the Red Cedar River will crest, MSU is preparing to deploy flood barriers to try to protect relatively low-lying buildings on campus.

“With the soil saturated,” DWP Director Scott House tells ELi, “water is ponding in areas residents are not used to, i.e. their backyards.” House adds, “The potential for basement back-ups [also] increases with this type of weather event, and we encourage residents to notify DPW if they are having issues.”

East Lansing’s DPW can be reached by calling 517-337-9459. After normal business hours, people should call the non-emergency number of the ELPD, 517-351-4220, and choose option 1. (ELPD will contact the DPW crew on-call.)

House notes that, “last year we had to close Kalamazoo Street in April for a couple days due to the Red Cedar River flooding, when the river crested at 8.4'. The Red Cedar River is projected to reach 9.5' during this event.”

Campus flood data is being provided in real time at MSU’s Infrastructure Planning and Facilities website. As shown below in a graph provided by the National Weather Service, the peak of the Red Cedar River flooding is expected to occur around 10 a.m. on Friday.

In a press release issued yesterday, the City advised that this week could see “flooding or standing water in low-lying areas of the community and campus, including, but not limited to: Kalamazoo Street, the Kalamazoo-US 127 ramp and Valley Court Park.”

Drivers and pedestrians should not attempt to pass through moving water. Says the City, “If a street has been barricaded by DPW, avoid driving on it.” Additionally, if a storm drain on a street appears obstructed, DPW should be called at the number provided above.

Yesterday MSU sent out a notice indicating that Auditorium Road Loops would be closed starting last night and continuing through next week “for flood plain preparation.” Specifically, the area is set to be used “in preparation for emergency flood plan team equipment and materials staging area.” The following map was provided:

MSU has a system of water-inflated flood barriers designed to be deployed along the Red Cedar River to act as protections against flooding. These are like giant sandbags, except they are filled with water. MSU has already also positioned barricades near sidewalks that are expected to be closed due to flooding.

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.