Residents remember 1967 flood in Warren

By: Brian Louwers | Warren Weekly | Published August 27, 2014

 Irene Nason lived on James south of 12 Mile and east of Dequindre when the neighborhood flooded in 1967. — Photo by Brian Louwers

Irene Nason lived on James south of 12 Mile and east of Dequindre when the neighborhood flooded in 1967. — Photo by Brian Louwers

WARREN — Irene Nason was high and dry in her home on James Street after torrential rains soaked metro Detroit and left parts of Warren flooded earlier this month.

But that wasn’t the case in 1967, when a deluge that became known as the “James Street Flood” left parts of the city — including her neighborhood near Dequindre and 12 Mile Road — under water.

“We had water in the basement to about the fourth step,” Nason recalled, 47 years later. “We laughed about it because it was like a swimming pool. We could dive in.”

Nason recalled, and showed photographs of, boats making their way down the street of the flooded neighborhood.

While her home didn’t flood in the aftermath of the heavy rains on Aug. 11 this year, many residents nearby — on Ward and other streets — weren’t so lucky.

Eleanor Bates, the ex-wife of the late former Warren Mayor Ted Bates, said her home on Studebaker flooded again this month. The same home also flooded in 1967, when the former mayor reportedly commandeered an amphibious tank to assist residents trapped in the James Street Flood.

“Ted had an amphibious (tank) from the tank arsenal come in. He was out all night rescuing kids from flooded basements,” Eleanor Bates said.

She said the floodwaters came during her late ex-husband’s first year in office.

“His job was to take care of the city. He was out all night and all day, trying to help do whatever had to be done,” Eleanor Bates said.

The effort, apparently, wasn’t enough for some people.

“I remember I had all these phone calls, people just cussing at my husband up and down,” she said. “He didn’t come home for just a little while the next day. I made supper for him. He fell asleep right at the table. He was exhausted. The phone was ringing. I told them, ‘My husband was up all night.’ He was doing everything he could, but they didn’t care. They were irate.”

Eleanor Bates said she later recruited a group of teenagers to assist with basement cleanup after the flood.

Sadly, she said she lost furniture, photos, Christmas decorations and other belongings in this month’s flooding. She said the home on Studebaker had 2 1/2 feet of water in the basement on Aug. 11. In 1967, there was about 1 foot in the basement.

“It could be worse. I had to clean my basement out anyway,” Eleanor Bates said. “It must have been the good Lord’s way of helping me.”