Whitmer declares state of emergency for Newaygo Co.


DAYTON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — You can still see and feel the moisture on the subfloor of R.E. Stephens’ Martin Lake home.

Thursday’s heavy rainfall and snowmelt caused flooding that washed out roadways, spilled into homes and raised water levels in area lakes and rivers.

In their neighborhood on the Newaygo-Oceana county line just north of Fremont, Stephens and many of his neighbors were hit by both the rising lake waters on one side of their homes and runoff down the driveway and through the homes.

“I’ve lived on this lake a long time, and it’s never been this bad,” Stephens said.

The battle to keep the water at bay was a losing proposition.

“The water was actually up to here,” Stephens said, showing the high water mark on the sun porch of his home. “My boat floated all the way up to the house.”

He had had to rip out carpet and cut drywall soaked by floodwaters.

“You can see, the floor’s buckling. And it’s fairly new,” he said, pointing to the wood floor in another section of the home.

Since the area is not in a flood plain, homes don’t qualify for flood insurance. The cost to replace and rebuild is on homeowners. Stephens estimates just drying out his home will run at least $2,000.

“The mold is the scary part. And right now, I still have 18 inches in my crawl space,” Stephens said.

But Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Tuesday declared a state of emergency for Newaygo County, which could help homeowners like Stephens.

Generally, the declarations provide state resources, including funding to fix roads and other government infrastructure damage. It also allows the Michigan State Police Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division to coordinate flooding response and relief efforts.

“We expect roughly over a half a million dollars in road damages alone. We also have drain issues. We have sewer issues. And then we have the damages to the homes,” Abby Watkins, Newaygo County’s emergency management director, listed Tuesday. “We estimate about 132 homes that are impacted. But we’re getting an additional eight to 10 reports a day, still, of impacts.”

While details are still being worked out, Watkins says the declaration will help the county qualify for a program that could help homeowners.  

“That would bring in low-interest home loans for disaster recovery assistance to the homeowners,” she explained.  

The county is also reaching out to other organizations for help.

“We’re in the process of working with volunteer organizations that specialize in disaster recovery to help these homeowners clean up,” Watkins said.

Homeowners and businesses with flood damage are being asked to file a report on the county’s website so officials can get a better idea of the extent of the damage.

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