Extreme Storms and Flooding

  • Saginaw Bay area flood, 2013.
  • Buildings along the Grand River, Grand Rapids, 2015. Photo: Dan O'Keefe
  • Saginaw River flood in Bay City, April 2017. Photo: Kip Cronk
  • Submerged docks on the Saginaw River, Bay City, April 2017. Photo: Kip Cronk
  • A path at Huron Metropark was blocked due to high water, 2011. Photo: Todd Marsee
  • Bangor Township flood, June 24, 2017. Photo: Kip Cronk

Soaked basements. Saturated fields. Ruined cars. Snapped power lines. Broken bridges and collapsed roadways. From coast to coast, Michigan’s communities struggle with extreme storms, high water levels, and flooding. The resulting damage can cripple communities and ruin livelihoods. 

As climate change leads to more frequent and more severe storms in Michigan, it’s more important than ever to be aware and prepared for potential hazards from storms and flooding

Other hazards associated with extreme storms and flooding

In addition to damaging homes, businesses, power lines, agricultural fields, roadways, and other infrastructure, extreme storms and floods can also:

  • Wash high levels of nitrogen, phosphorus, and other nutrients into rivers and streams, where they can lead to harmful algal blooms
  • Give invasive fish and plant species new routes for moving from one water body to another.
  • Create damp environments that encourage the growth of mildew, mold, harmful bacteria, and mosquito larvae.
  • Tempt people to swim, fish, wade, or boat in potentially hazardous waters. Fast-moving currents, underwater obstructions, and waterborne contaminants can all threaten the health and safety of people who take risks in floodwaters.

Michigan Sea Grant coastal storms project

Michigan Sea Grant’s Coastal Storms Project is helping communities prepare for future extreme storms. Click here to read more about the project.

Michigan Sea Grant has identified some tips and online tools to help communities assess their risks from extreme storms and determine what steps they might take to reduce stormwater impact:

Michigan Sea Grant also developed three webinars to support decision-makers and planners in addressing and developing resiliency related to extreme storms and flooding in the Saginaw Bay region:

NOAA Digital Coast Partnership: Using NOAA data to support resilient communities in Saginaw Bay. Participants learned about the Digital Coast Partnership and how the available data and tools could help address coastal issues. Presenters were National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration representatives Brandon Krumwiede and Joshua Murphy. 

Extreme storms and hazard mitigation strategies: Participants learned about different types of hazards, including extreme storms and flooding, and mitigation planning efforts that support community resilience. The information was presented by Mike Sobocinski, a State Hazard Mitigation Planner with the Michigan State Police Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division.

National Flood Insurance Program’s Community Rating System: Participants learned about the NFIP’s Community Rating System, where communities can reduce flood insurance premiums for local property owners by completing flood protection activities. The information was presented by Molly O’Toole, the Community Rating System lead consultant to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The Great Flood of 1986

In 1986, Michigan experienced a devastating storm and flood event. Michigan Sea Grant and partners have collected stories and photographs from people who experienced the historic flooding, particularly in the hard-hit Saginaw Bay region. Click here to learn more.

Disasters like the 1986 flood can teach us lessons about preparing for and coping with future storms. Click here for resources and tools.

From Michigan State University Extension

Michigan State University Extension has a wealth of resources for farmers and homeowners facing floodwaters and storms: