‘Rapids through the backyard’: Portland residents flee flood

Ionia County

PORTLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — Families forced to evacuate as the Grand River rose in Portland described loud chaos as they scrambled to safety.

Charlsie Abel said the river hasn’t crossed N. Water Street in the 10 years she’s lived there — until late last night, when the water made its way across the road and into her basement.

“This is catastrophic compared to what we’ve seen in the past,” Abel told 24 Hour News 8.

Later, she and her husband came to survey the damage and found about 5 feet of water in their basement.

“It was loud and very chaotic and we were sending out kids out the door,” Abel recalled. “There was a fireman waiting for them down there and we’re like, ‘Just go with them. We’re coming behind you.'”

Abel said that when she went to bed at 10 p.m. Tuesday, things were normal. The dog alerted them to the flooding river, forced past its banks due to a large ice jam, around midnight.

>>Photos: Portland ice jam flooding

On Wednesday afternoon, the whole property resembled a nearly-frozen ice cube. Trees, fences and her pool deck were swallowed by icy water.

Rick Smith lives a few doors down. His daughter called him while he was at work, begging him to come home and help her and her 7-month old baby escape safely.

“My daughter called crying that the river was flowing through our house,” Smith said.

He left work and rushed to help.

“When I got in the house it sounded like the house was falling down,” Smith described. “It was rapids literally going through the backyard. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I just couldn’t believe it.”

His 7-foot basement was filled with water Wednesday morning.

Smith said that residents upriver told him they experienced light flooding on Tuesday. He said if that’s the case, residents downriver should have been notified.

“I don’t understand if it flooded upriver yesterday, why would you think it wouldn’t flood down here and warn us? At least I could’ve saved my car,” Smith said.

He said water swelled to a height level with the trunk of his Chevrolet Monte Carlo.

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