Township faces closed roads in wake of storm

By: Jeremy Selweski | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published August 13, 2014

MACOMB TOWNSHIP — The township was not hit nearly as hard as other metro Detroit communities by the punishing storm that struck the region on Aug. 11, but motorists were still inconvenienced by a pair of major road closures.

According to Bob Hoepfner, director of the Macomb County Department of Roads, the torrential rains that flooded so many roads, parking lots, yards and basements in southwest Macomb County and southeast Oakland County did not do much damage north of Hall Road. Meanwhile, he said, “everyone south of Metro Parkway really got whacked.”

While communities such as Warren, Clinton Township, Royal Oak and Hazel Park reported record-setting rainfall levels of 4.5 inches or more, data from the National Weather Service indicates that Macomb Township received only 2.5 to 3 inches of rain.

“There was nothing too awful or extreme around here, but our residents definitely felt the impact of this storm,” said Gerry Wangelin, the township’s water and sewer superintendent. “We still had minor flooding in some areas. There’s just no financially feasible way to design a sewer system that can handle that much water in such a short amount of time.”

Perhaps the biggest problem to strike the Macomb Township area in the storm’s wake was the sinkhole that opened up on Hayes Road just south of 24 Mile Road. As a result of the sinkhole, which measures about 10 feet in diameter and sits right in the middle of the two-lane road, Hayes will remain closed between 23 Mile and 24 Mile roads until the damage can be fixed.

As Hoepfner explained, a hole formed in the top of the 72-inch culvert that carries water underneath Hayes. That section of the structure then collapsed, taking a chunk of the road with it. He said that this is a common problem that occurs during severe storms when culverts become overloaded with runoff. Hoepfner was unsure, however, how long it would take to repair the sinkhole on Hayes.

“We don’t have equipment large enough to handle that kind of construction on our own,” he said, “so I’m going to have to bring in an emergency contractor to do the work. There’s not really any timeline I can give for you for when we’ll be ready to open the road again.”

Another issue in Macomb Township was flooding along 21 Mile Road just east of Romeo Plank Road. According to Hoepfner, this area is flooded on a regular basis because the middle branch of the Clinton River is situated nearby, and it tends to overflow whenever there is heavy rainfall.

This time around, the flooding on 21 Mile was severe enough that it led to the temporary closure of Waldenburg Park while township officials wait for the excess water to subside. Parks and Recreation Director Sal DiCaro indicated on Aug. 12 that the park should be ready to open again the next day, but with one caveat: “Hopefully we don’t get any more rain tonight,” he said.

Beyond the culvert failure on Hayes and the flooding on 21 Mile, though, there appeared to be few major problems in the township as a result of the storm. Still, Hoepfner recommended on Aug. 12 that motorists stay home if at all possible, or at least try to limit their driving time throughout the day.

If not, he suggested that they avoid those two areas, as well as other flooded stretches like 23 Mile Road between Mound Road and Van Dyke Avenue, Heydenreich Road at Cass Avenue, Clinton River Road at Canal Road, Garfield Road at 19 Mile Road, Schoenherr Road at Clinton River, Hayes just north of Utica Road, and 21 Mile at Van Dyke. He also suggested that they steer clear of major freeways like I-94, I-75 and especially I-696, as large portions of them remain closed.

“Most of those roads should be ready to reopen within the next 12 hours, but all we can do is wait for the water to go down,” Hoepfner said. “We got a lot of rain, so it’s just going to take some time for Mother Nature to help us out.”

Wangelin pointed out that Macomb Township homeowners were largely undisturbed by the storm, as he had not heard any reports of the flooded basements that many residents of the southern suburbs had to endure. While the Water and Sewer Department did receive a handful of emergency phone calls after hours on Aug. 11, those calls were from residents whose sump pumps were broken, not because of any failures with the township’s sewer system.

“We are, for the most part, very fortunate here in Macomb Township because our (water and sewer) infrastructure is still relatively new — it’s basically a teenager,” Wangelin said. “People just need to be patient if they do come across any flooding. Mother Nature can be a vicious force at times, but all of this water will subside eventually.”

For more information, call the Macomb Township Water and Sewer Department at (586) 598-0687 or the Macomb County Department of Roads at (586) 463-8671.