Sterling storms cause flooding, outages

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published August 13, 2019


Powerful thunderstorms hovered over Sterling Heights and parts of metro Detroit the night of Aug. 12, drenching roads and flooding basements. But Sterling Heights officials said city workers banded together to minimize disruption to residents.

According to Sterling Heights Community Relations Director Melanie Davis, officials believe that the storms dumped more than 4 inches of rain on the city.

On Aug. 13, City Manager Mark Vanderpool called the storms “an incredible rain event” that had both similarities and differences to the flooding that happened in August 2014. 

He said while the 2014 flood was more regional and happened during rush hour, the recent flood was more local, “isolated to this narrow band along M-59, ” and it occurred at night, when there weren’t many cars on the road.

“With this particular rain event, the intensity was worse — 4-6 inches of rain in about three hours — which news reports categorized as a 500-year rain event, which is frightening,” he said. “The city of Sterling Heights fared quite well considering the magnitude of the rain event.”

Vanderpool said the city had to tow 42 vehicles, and “numerous” road closures occurred. The Sterling Heights Police Department reported on social media that it closed M-59 at Mound Road that night due to flooding. The next morning, Schoenherr Road was closed in the area of Plumbrook Road and Metropolitan Parkway, police said.

However, Vanderpool said the Clinton River has not exceeded its banks or caused much flooding.

“The worst of our flooding was along the Plumbrook Drain, which runs diagonally in our city from the northwest corner down to the southeast corner of our city,” he said. 

Vanderpool said the neighborhoods’ stormwater detention facilities overall worked well and as designed. He added that city officials have been going through neighborhoods assessing situations.

Department of Public Works crews and police and fire personnel worked throughout the night, and they were able to address problem spots plus their usual calls, Vanderpool said.

Vanderpool said the city received some reports of basement backups, but as of noon, fewer than 10. Some residents told the Sentry on social media that their basements had become flooded. 

“It may increase throughout the day as we become aware of more,” Vanderpool said. “Not everyone reports a basement backup to us.”

The city manager said storm-related power outages were minimal, estimating the number at under 500. He said even those had been restored by the following morning.

Je’well Pearson, DTE Energy’s senior communications strategist and spokeswoman, said she couldn’t confirm the peak number of storm-related outages in Sterling Heights, but she confirmed the day after that “we do not have any current outages.” 

Find out more about Sterling Heights by visiting or by calling (586) 446-2489. For information on DTE Energy, visit

Call Staff Writer Eric Czarnik at (586) 498-1058.