Flooding continues to shut down I-94 in Detroit and Dearborn

June 29, 2021

Tyson Fisher

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Anyone driving in the Detroit area should check their route before leaving, as Interstate 94 remains closed for the fourth consecutive day due to flooding.

As of 3 p.m. local time, the Michigan Department of Transportation was reporting that I-94 in Detroit and Dearborn was shut down between Greenfield Road and the Interstate 75 interchange. Motorists can use Interstate 96, Interstate 75 and state Route 10 for detours.

Since last Thursday, the Detroit area has been hit hard with rain. In a tweet on Tuesday, June 29, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said that the city received more rain in one day over the weekend than it usually gets in two months, most of which came within five hours. Consequently, flooding has been a major issue the past couple days.

Weather forecasts reveal that Detroit will not get any relief soon. Severe thunderstorms are in the forecast for Tuesday afternoon for several southeastern Michigan counties.

Chance of rain greater than 50% is in the forecast for Wednesday and Thursday, according to the National Weather Service, threatening to exacerbate flooding.

Rain also is possible for the rest of the week.

During a news conference on Monday, June 28, with Duggan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, and Detroit Water and Sewerage Department officials, the governor announced that she has issued an emergency declaration to set the stage for a presidential emergency declaration. A presidential declaration would allow city and state officials to use federal resources to address the flooding, including help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Stating their case for President Joe Biden, Mayor Duggin pointed out the largest rain events in Detroit in the last 80 years:

  • 4.57 inches on Aug. 11, 2014
  • 4.34 inches on July 7, 1998
  • 3.71 inches on Sept. 11, 2000
  • 3.21 inches on Aug. 11, 1964
  • 3.19 inches on July 12, 1966
  • 3.08 inches on July 11, 1979
  • 2.96 inches on July 31, 2018.

The record rain event in 2014 resulted in then-President Barack Obama declaring a presidential major disaster after the city was flooded.

A city airport report calculates the rain event on Saturday, June 26, at 5.77 inches, far surpassing the previous record in 2014.

According to an MDOT news release, power outages from flooding over the weekend affected dozens of freeway pump houses, which rely on power to pump water off the highways. Temporary generators were able to clear all the highways except for Interstate 94 in Detroit and Dearborn. Water pumped from I-94 is flowing back onto the highway as nearby creeks and rivers rise, leaving nowhere for more water to go.

MDOT cannot pump water from I-94 until those waterways subside. As soon as water on the interstate recedes, tow trucks will have to remove all vehicles that have become stuck. After that, crews will need to begin debris cleanup.

Officials emphasized that the power outages and water/sewerage services were in great shape and adequate in dealing with flooding. However, the system was not designed to deal with such a massive rain event. Lt. Gov. Gilchrist said this isn’t a maintenance issue. Rather, he shifted the blame to global warming, claiming it caused the capacity issue that led to subsequent events. LL

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Tyson Fisher joined Land Line Magazine in March 2014. An award-winning journalist and tireless researcher, his news reports, features and blogs bring depth to our editorial content, backed with solid detail. Tyson is a lifelong Kansas Citian.