Grand River flood leaves Kent County in ‘state of disaster’


The Grand River in downtown Grand Rapids rises to the flood wall after a month of record-breaking rains. Photo by Mike Nichols

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has declared Kent County as being in a “state of disaster,” following the severe flooding of the Grand River last month.

The declaration was necessary to determine if the county can qualify for financial recovery assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“The flooding Kent County experienced in April was unlike anything we’ve seen in decades,” said Dan Koorndyk, Kent County Commission chairman, in a statement.

“We have been working closely with Lt. Gov. Brian Calley and the governor’s office throughout this disaster. We are extremely appreciative of all of the efforts of Gov. Snyder and the many others who have dedicated themselves to helping the residents of Kent County over the past four weeks,” he added.

Koorndyk said the governor’s office has pledged to explore “all possible avenues for assistance to help affected residents and local governments recover from severe flooding.” Most residents who were evacuated from their homes and businesses have been allowed to return.

About a week ago, the county Bureau of Equalization said damage from the flooding totaled roughly $6 million. Of that total, nearly $4.7 million was assessed to private property with $1.3 million being tagged to public property. Also, the Kent County Road Commission estimated $210,000 worth of damage was done to county roads.

Those estimates, however, were preliminary and incomplete, as the numbers were released when two-thirds of the assessments were finished. “This is an early estimate, with about 35 percent of the damage not yet assessed,” said Matt Woolford, county equalization director, last week.

“There are still flood waters in homes and businesses. It is quite likely those properties have suffered major damage due to the duration of the water being in the structures,” said Woolford.

Staff members from FEMA and the governor’s office are expected to join local officials in assessing further damage to homes and businesses in the county. They will also look at damage done to public facilities and infrastructure.

Their findings will go into a Preliminary Damage Assessment, as it’s called, and that report will help determine whether a federal declaration will be requested. If one is, the Obama administration will determine whether the county will receive recovery dollars from FEMA.

Snyder also issued the same declaration for Barry, Ionia, Muskegon, Newaygo and Ottawa counties.

Kent County commissioners extended the local state of emergency through May 24 on April 25. Grand Rapids city commissioners did the same a few days later.

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