Emergency crews warn of dangerous rivers after heavy rains

Kent County

PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Tumbled and tangled: That’s how a group of tubers end up after challenging the fast-moving Rouge River.

The river won.

The fast-moving waters caused the tubers to get hung up on the supports for the Childsdale Avenue bridge. Everybody’s OK. Only one of the tubers had to be rescued by Plainfield Township firefighters.

But the incident illustrates why you need to stay off West Michigan rivers right now.

“They don’t realize how powerful the water is until they get in it and it’s too late,” said Deputy Jim Smith with the Kent County Sheriff’s Department Marine Division.

And often, the people on the water have lost their best survival tool.

“The requirement is to have a type 1, 2, 3 or 4 life jacket, but typically what we find out is people aren’t wearing them. So the life jacket does you no good when it’s floating down stream,” Smith said.

First responders from the lakeshore to metro Grand Rapids are putting out the same warning as the heavy precipitation from the last few days is driving a lot of water down the rivers, making them treacherous.

It’s the same advice for the Grand River in Grand Rapids. Anglers are being urged to stay behind the railing near the fish ladder.

Grand Rapids Fire Department Battalion Chief Dave Noorman said that while the current alone is bad enough, there are also other dangers you may not see until it’s too late.

“We get trees and debris from upstream flowing down. When you look at the river, you can’t really see those. They’re under the water. But there’re there. They can damage and capsize boats, tip over canoes,” Noorman said.

If you’re not concerned with your own safety, think of the people who may come to your rescue. On Monday morning, divers from the Kent County Sheriff’s Department Underwater Search and Recovery team practiced techniques on a much calmer Lime Lake. While they train for water rescues, they still present a risk.

“If something does happen, it absolutely does put the first responders at risk,” Smith said.

If Mother Nature cooperates and backs off the rain, most rivers should crest midweek and be safe by the Fourth of July weekend.

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