Both cities declared states of emergency after a storm Aug. 11 brought record rainfall to southeast Michigan, flooding roadways and basements.
Gov. Rick Snyder issued a declaration of disaster Aug. 13 for Oakland, Wayne and Macomb counties, while Royal Oak declared its emergency Aug. 12, and Clawson declared its emergency Aug. 13.
“The flooding that continues to impact southeastern Michigan is a disaster in every sense of the word,” Snyder said in a statement. “As local and state authorities work around the clock to deal with this situation, it is clear that the significant personal property and infrastructure damage, coupled with ongoing threats to public safety, warrants this state declaration.”
The declarations will work toward the region receiving some form of disaster relief. The degree of relief, though, is largely unknown, officials from Royal Oak and Clawson said.
“This event was so catastrophic that it is difficult to determine right now what resources will be available to help those affected in replacing the losses they suffered,” said Clawson City Attorney Jon Kingsepp.
Royal Oak City Manager Don Johnson said that the declaration puts the city and residents in line to receive whatever aid comes the region’s way.
“If this gets approved by the White House and (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) gets involved, to what extent they do anything, Royal Oak would be a part of it,” Johnson said.
While Royal Oak is doing what it can to ensure its residents are reimbursed for financial losses, he said it is very unlikely FEMA money would go toward private-property losses.
“I’m very doubtful of reimbursement for private-property losses,” he said.
It also is unknown if FEMA would fully reimburse the city for the cost of cleaning up the flood damage.
A portion of Stephenson Highway, near the intersection of Interstate 696 and Interstate 75, eroded away and fell into I-75. Along with it went the pump station meant to pull water off the interstate.
Johnson said that the city determined it was a state-owned sewer that caused the erosion, and he anticipated getting reimbursed for the replacement of the road.
Other than that, he said that in his experience in working with FEMA in the past, it only reimburses a portion of cleanup costs.
What does the declaration mean for residents?
The emergency declaration does multiple things.
First, it’s a declaration to state and federal governments of how dire the situation is in southeast Oakland County.
“It’s a general announcement of how heavily impacted the city of Clawson was,” Kingsepp said.
He said 1,300 homes in Clawson were affected by the storm. Royal Oak estimates $120 million in personal-property damage.
Second, residents making claims with insurance companies will be able to use the declaration — along with personal documentation — as evidence of the depth of damage.
With that, Kingsepp added that residents should document everything. That means taking photographs of damage, keeping receipts for salvaging or replacing items destroyed by the flood, and a diary of man-hours used in repair efforts.
“You try to calculate anything you can that has taken up your time and money for you to remedy,” Kingsepp said.