Flooding in Michigan: River Floods, Ice Jams and More
Michigan is no stranger to extreme weather, from extreme cold, to heat waves, and even tornados. But one kind of weather event homeowners may forget about is flooding. Flooding can cause serious damage. In fact, FEMA states that “Floods are the most common and costly natural disasters in the United States.”
Several severe floods in recent years have caused growing concern for homeowners like Sherry Blair. The Owosso resident lives near the Shiawassee River and didn't initially have concerns about living near the water. But that changed this past winter as she started noticing large chunks of ice in the river and grew concerned about flooding. "If there's a blockage, all I can think about with all this thawing was the river rising more and more and couldn't get past, and it was going to rise into our home."
Snowmelt and ice jams are a frequent cause of flooding in the state, but they aren't the only types of flooding that affects Michiganders.
Why Does Michigan Flood?
A Michigan State University report stated that "Michigan is blessed with an abundance of water above and below the ground." This is due to several features of the state's geography including:
With the state's abundance of water, also comes an abundance of opportunities for flooding. The National Weather Service has identified the six most common types of floods that occur in Michigan:
How Vulnerable is Michigan to Flooding?
In 2020, the Detroit Free Press reported that according to research firm First Street Foundation, Michigan had approximately 400,000 more properties were at risk of flooding than FEMA had identified. They listed Detroit as having the most properties with some flood risk, at 39,744. The city with the second greatest flood risk was Warren with 11,916 parcels, then Grand Rapids with 9,448 parcels.
Flood Risk tools like FEMA’s Flood Map Service Center, and First Street Foundation’s Flood Factor can help homeowners determine their risk, but it can also be helpful to look to history for information on flooding. Michigan has had its fair share of significant flood events over the years including:
The Lansing Area Flood of 1975
On April 18, 1975, the Lansing area was hit with a severe rainstorm. The storm's approximately 2.3 to 5 inches of rain led the Grand River to crest at 15.3 feet on April 20, approximately four feet above the flood stage. The Federal Disaster Assistance Administration estimated at the time that 4,500 homes were damaged, with 175 of those experiencing severe damage.
The Muskegon River Flood of 1986
This flood had a large impact on Central Lower Michigan. The flooding was caused by heavy rain with more than 10 inches of rain over two days, which led 11 dams to fail, damaged 30,000 homes, and obstructed 3,600 miles of roadways. Flood damage was estimated to be more than $500 million (1986 dollars) and, tragically, led to 89 injuries and 6 deaths.
The Dead River Flash Flood of 2003
This historic flood began on May 14, 2003, when a fuse plug in the Silver Lake Dam failed, releasing 9 billion gallons of water into the Dead River. The subsequent flooding led to approximately $100 million (2003 dollars) in damage and the forced evacuation of 1,800 people. Thankfully, no lives were lost.
The Grand River Flood of 2013
On April 21, 2013, heavy rainfall caused the Grand River to crest at 21.85 feet, leading to severe flooding. More than 1,200 homes flooded, and 300 roads had to be closed. The storm caused more than $43 million in damage (2013 dollars).
The Midland County Flood of 2020
On May 17, 2020 heavy rain in central Michigan lead to severe flooding in Midland County. The flooding led to the failure on May 19 of both the Edenville and Sanford Dams. The governor of Michigan subsequently declared a state of emergency and more than 10,000 residents were forced to evacuate. The failure of the Edenville Dam led to flood waters comingled with Dow Chemical contamination ponds in Midland, but the company said that the comingling was of no danger to residents.
Have You Talked to Your Michigan Clients About Flood Insurance?
Whether your clients are in a high or low risk area, flood insurance might be a good option.
Your clients in high-risk areas may have coverage through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), but perhaps they would be interested in adding an excess flood policy so they could have coverage greater than that offered by the NFIP.
You may also want to discuss flood insurance options with your clients in lower risk areas. While they may not have a great a probability of flooding, there is still the possibility. FEMA reports that greater than 25% of NFIP claims are from homes outside high-risk areas. Aon Edge’s EZ Flood product might be a good option as it allows clients to choose their deductible and coverage options and offers coverage beyond the NFIP’s maximum.
You can learn more about flood insurance options, and sales tips with Aon Edge’s Flood Insurance Agents Resources page.
This information is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended to provide individualized business, insurance, or legal advice. All descriptions, summaries or highlights of coverage are for general informational purposes only and do not amend, alter or modify the actual terms or conditions of any insurance policy. Coverage is governed only by the terms and conditions of the relevant policy.