Floodwaters near historic proportions

Tribune Staff • Jul 21, 2015 at 12:29 PM

When the water poured into Mary Palazzolo’s garage, she packed a suitcase for herself and her dog, and then called for rescue services. The 69-year-old woman said she feared she wouldn’t have been able to get to work on Friday.

The river's level at Robinson Township rose above 15 feet on Thursday. Its flood stage of 13.3 feet was surpassed earlier this week.

Palazzolo said it took her a half-hour Wednesday night to wade the quarter-mile of water-covered 120th Avenue to get to her Limberlost Street home from her car parked on higher ground. She said it was difficult maneuvering down the dark road with a flashlight in the deep and fast-flowing water.

Add to that the thunder and lightning that was forecasted, and the Robinson Township woman said she knew she wouldn't be able to get to work Thursday afternoon.

“I’ve never seen it this high in the spring,” she said.

Rescuers used a boat to reach Palazzolo’s home.

Firefighters also rescued Char Reed, who waded through the rising water to her boyfriend’s home at the end of 120th Avenue on Thursday. The Muskegon woman said she took a half-day off work to go to the Robinson Township home to retrieve her cat, Sabrina, and turn off the home’s power.

Reed said she was thankful for the rescuers because she was tired, and it might have taken her another 45 minutes to get back to her car.

Although the area often floods, Reed said the view of the river is worth it.

“It’s just something you get accustomed to,” she said of the flooding.

River advisory issued

Late Thursday afternoon, the Ottawa County Health Department received notification of sewage overflows in Coopersville and Grandville. That prompted a no-body contact advisory to be issued for Deer Creek and the entire length of the Grand River in Ottawa County.

National Weather Service meteorologist Jared Maples said the Grand River is expected to reach just over 19 feet by the time it crests Monday night.

The record flooding for the area took place Jan. 21, 2005, when the river rose to 18.3 feet.

Maples said the Lakeshore received between 2 and 4 inches of rain on Thursday. For the month, area precipitation officially totals 6.43 inches, which is 4.68 inches above the normal monthly average.

Inland home swamped

As Sylvia French watched her husband, Terry, slug through thigh-deep water behind their Grand Haven Township home on Thursday, she said they've never seen flooding like this week in the 41 years they’ve lived there.

In less than an hour Thursday morning, their 168th Avenue home became a peninsula in a shallow lake — and their property, just south of Hayes Street, is nowhere near a river. Water built up from cloudbursts and steady rain was starting to fill the crawl space beneath the Frenches' home.

Before noon, the water was almost level with their deck and was within an inch of going into their sunroom. Terry said they needed to start moving the furniture out of the sunroom.

Water over roads

Throughout the day, water over roadways closed some area streets.

“That’s the flavor of the day,” said Jeff Johnson, maintenance superintendent for the Ottawa County Road Commission.

Johnson said Road Commission employees had been “scrambling” during the past few days to place “water over the road” signs and flipping permanent signs that warn of the danger.

One of the permanent signs is in the area of 168th Avenue and Johnson Street in Grand Haven Township.

“There’s always water over the road there,” Johnson said.

Many roads in Crockery Township are water-covered — including 104th Avenue south of Wilson Street, Taft Street north of 104th, and old 16 east of 112th Avenue (the Camel Back Bridge).

Ottawa County spokeswoman Shannon Felgner said watered-covered roads was a countywide problem on Thursday. She said residents shouldn’t drive through flooded roads because it’s difficult to judge the depth and whether or not the road was washed away.

“It’s very dangerous,” Felgner said.

Today’s forecast calls for a mix of light rain showers before switching to snow. Maples said he doesn’t see any accumulations happening.

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