Grand River floods Portland buildings, prompts evacuations

Ionia County

PORTLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — Some Portland homes and businesses are flooded after an ice jam caused the Grand River to spill over its banks in Ionia County.

Water Street was true to its name Wednesday, as the flooding swallowed the roadway and made its way into homes lining the street, forcing about 50 residents to evacuate overnight.

One resident described the flooding as “catastrophic.” It surrounded 15 foot trees, leaving only the tops untouched, spilling over the top of a man’s Monte Carlo and filling basements. The least flooded basement on N. Water Street still had 4 to 5 feet of water in it.

Businesses along Kent Street near Grand River Avenue were also flooded, with upwards of two feet of water in their basements Wednesday morning.

City Manager Tutt Gorman told 24 Hour News 8 they began evacuating homes near the Grand River around 12:30 a.m. Wednesday because of rising floodwaters.

Some were rescued by boat, including Devon Cyr and his family.

“The car in the garage had water. It was beeping, lights were going. My sister’s car had water on it. We had to get our stuff around and they had to evacuate us and they pulled up a boat to our porch,” Cyr explained. “They had to push us up the road down by where Frosty Boy was and then we got into the truck and drove to the City Hall.”

“We designated City Hall here as a temporary shelter,” Gorman explained. “People had pets and dogs and we certainly wanted them to bring everything in they needed.”

The Church of Nazarene on Cutler Road also opened as an emergency shelter. The American Red Cross set up cots for a few dozen people who didn’t have anywhere else to go. About 20 people stayed there after the flooding started early Monday.

“What we’re offering today is a warm place for people to come, a place to sleep, food, drink, resources,” shelter manager Gilbert Flores said. “…We do client case work as well to help them out with their future recovery process.”

Officials with the National Weather Service confirm a river gauge near Kent and River Street was damaged earlier, but it did not contribute to the lack of early warning. Andy Dixon with NWS says it’s difficult to predict what effects an ice jam will have on river levels, or how quick they may cause those levels to rise.

By midday Wednesday, the floodwaters began to recede. But the amount of rain and how temperatures will behave after the warmup are the big unknowns.

“It does seem, at this stage, the flooding has receeded some. But again, with the weather predicted, we’re looking at 50 degrees and more rain tommorrow, which is good in some sense and not in the other, so we just want to continue to monitor and see what we need to do,” said Gorman.

For now, city officials wait and hope for a slow meltdown. But they’re not putting away the emergency playbook.

>>Photos: Portland ice jam flooding

—24 Hour News 8’s Barton Deiters contributed to this report.

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