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Flood of debris

Becky Vargo • Jul 21, 2015 at 12:30 PM

“Every three to five minutes we see a big tree go by,” said Paula DeWitt, who lives at Harbourfront Place in downtown Grand Haven with a view of the river. “You can see a lot more from up there."

Logs, stumps, cattails and garbage that washed up on the Grand Haven State Park beach attracted a lot of attention after the rain stopped and temperatures were warm enough for people to go outside.

Dave Herdegen and Dick Good were sorting through a pile of wood at the state park’s campground that they believe had been dragged up from the beach. Herdegen said he was planning to make a driftwood sculpture for his yard.

A short distance up the channel, a Coast Guard crew worked to free some debris from a buoy chain. They traveled a little farther upriver to free a big clump of cattails and sticks off a larger green buoy.

“Relax, guys,” a crew member yelled, as the freed clump started pulling the vessel downriver. The boat came around and the line they used to hook the clump was detached. The vessel settled back in the water and the crew moved on upstream.

Spring Lake High School experienced a few flooding problems, Principal Mike Gilchrist said.

“If we get a really hard east wind, (the rain) goes up under one of the (roof) flashings,” he said.

That caused water to accumulate over the ceiling tiles near one of the school's art rooms. Those tiles were removed and water was allowed to drain into buckets placed underneath. Gilchrist said the tiles did not fall on top of anyone.

“A couple of the toilets were gurgling," the principal added. "A floor drain outside of an art room was bubbling and there was a small puddle."

There was also a quarter-inch of water on one side of the orchestra pit in the auditorium. This presents a problem as the students prepare for the school's spring musical.

Gilchrist said the bus entrance off Leonard Road also had to be closed and buses rerouted to the front of the high school late last week when the retention pond overflowed.

“We had a foot of water in the driveway,” he said.

Bus routes also had to be altered last week because of water over some of the roads in the district.

In Robinson Township, River Haven Marina owner Dave Lenger said the marina clubhouse is surrounded with water on Monday, and the water is flush with the floor level of the office and bathrooms, which are 8 inches higher than the clubhouse floor.

Lenger said there is more than 2 feet of water in the marina pole barns. He said that is not a big issue because the boats are all on blocks and would need another foot and a half of water before they start to float.

A 50-foot pontoon boat and a 36-foot yacht were tied to trees after floating off their stands, he said. The pontoon will be allowed to go down with the water and rest on the ground.

Lenger said they were able to float the yacht over to a travel lift and get it out of danger. The lift was moved so it was in 3 feet of water because he couldn't get it to higher ground.

Lenger said his crew worked hard at trying to minimize the damage from the flooding.

“For the most part, it’s just going to be a lot of cleanup,” he said. “It will probably be the middle of next week before we can even think about” putting boats in the water.

Ottawa County continues to be under a state of emergency, said Shannon Felgner, the county's communications manager. The declaration made last week allows the county to acquire state resources.

“For example, it allowed us to get 21,000 sandbags from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,” she said.

Residential areas in Robinson, Crockery, Polkton and Georgetown townships are the hardest hit areas of the county, Felgner said. Georgetown Township still has the most roads under water.

Felgner said road closings were changing so frequently with the changing water levels that they were not able to keep the advisory up to date. She urged residents to be cautious and avoid roads covered by water.

As the floodwaters recede and people start getting a better idea of the damages to their homes, Felgner said the county is asking them to report that damage to their municipalities so the county can conduct an assessment.

Grand Haven Township residents are asked to share this information with the Township Fire Department by calling 842-5988, or e-mailing Fire Chief Tom Gerencer at tgerencer@ght.org. Include your name, address, type of damage, type of structure, flood level and estimated repair costs.

Felgner said the county has clean-up kits available and will be announcing distribution sites soon.

The American Red Cross reported it distributed 57 kits last week and provided shelter for 65 people.

For more information on what to do after a flood and how to prevent mold damage, CLICK HERE.

CLICK HERE to see more photos of the flooding and aftermath submitted by Tribune readers. Send your flood-related photos to news@grandhaventribune.com to have them posted on the gallery.

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