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More Rain Expected In Flood Areas; Damage Estimated at $237 Million

September 16, 1986

DETROIT (AP) _ Strong winds blowing off Saginaw Bay threatened new flooding Monday, prompting warnings to residents to prepare to evacuate, and officials boosted damage estimates from last week’s storms to at least $252 million.

Meanwhile, up to 1 1/2 inches of rain fell on parts of central Michigan, but rivers that overflowed last week, forcing thousands of people to flee, continued slowly to recede.

Saginaw officials reported $25 million in damage to public and private property, and $23.6 million to private property in the city of 77,000, said Duane Trombly, planning manager for the state police Emergency Management Division.

Gov. James Blanchard would ask President Reagan for federal disaster relief, Trombly said, and about 50 federal officials arrived Monday in Michigan to verify local damage estimates.

About 780 Michigan residents evacuated Monday, but about 3,000 others had returned home, Trombly said.

″They’d probably rather be at their homes with water in their basements than in an emergency shelter,″ he said.

Four more counties were declared disaster areas, bringing to 22 the number of counties from Lake Michigan to Lake Huron severely affected by the flooding, said Dave Tjepkma, a civilan planner for the Emergency Management Division in Lansing.

State officials also predicted the sites would be declared a federal disaster area from the thunderstorms, tornadoes and floodwaters that killed five people, injured 52 and destroyed six dams. Searches resumed Monday for three other people presumed drowned in two rivers.

Flooding in 18 central Michigan counties since Wednesday has caused at least $227 million in damage, Tjepkma said.

Northeast winds clocked at up to 30 mph Monday evening were expected to push up Saginaw Bay and Lake Huron water levels and flood shoreline around Bay City, the National Weather Service said.

The wind-whipped bay combined with already-high levels in the Saginaw River, which flows into it, could spell trouble, said Nancy Schroeder, deputy director of emergency services in Bay County.

″We’re in a double whammy,″ she said.

Residents in parts of Bay City and eight nearby townships were warned of the flood threat and were told to be prepared to leave for higher ground.

Meanwhile, state Health Department spokesman Lee Jager said 10 wastewater treatment plants had failed due to flooding, and residents of were warned to boil tap water or use bottled water. Other municipal drinking supplies appeared to be safe, Jager said.

About 1 1/2 inches of rain fell in the Saginaw River basin Monday, and about a half-inch fell in other parts the state that was swamped by up to 13 inches of rain during the four-day period, said Gary Charson, a National Weather Service hydrologist.

″At worst, (the new rain) will slow down the recession of the rivers, it won’t make (the levels) go up again,″ Charson said.

Tuesday was forecast to be sunny and dry, but Charson said scattered showers are possible later this week, which could cause new problems.

All the state’s rivers were receding Monday except for the Saginaw River, which crested at a record 24.2 feet Monday and would probably begin to recede in the coming days, Charson said.

Most of the 3,900 people driven from their homes returned Monday, Tjepkma said.

All but one of the roads in Vassar was open Monday, said Marcia Warner, a spokeswoman for the city. Sixty Michigan National Guard troops were in the community of 2,600 people to prevent looting. Five people were arrested.

An additional 72 guardsman were deployed across the state, Tjepkma said.

In addition to the Saginaw, at least five rivers hit record heights. The Tittabawassee River at Midland crested at 33.4 feet Saturday, breaking the mark of 29.7 feet set in 1916.

The Pine River at Alma crested at 13 feet Friday, breaking the 1948 record by 2.19 feet. The Muskegon River at Newaygo crested at 19.6 feet Friday; the record was 13.9 feet, set in 1969.

The Cass River set two records. It crested at 19 feet Friday at Cass City and 25 feet Saturday at Vassar, breaking March 20, 1948, records of 15.8 feet and 20.8 feet.

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