Holly Rutherford is one of hundreds of Grosse Pointe Farms residents whose May 25 as swept through southern Michigan.
The 39-year-old mother of three is still removing some of the damaged property from her home in the 400 block of Bournemouth Circle that will be put at the curb for garbage removal. She had 3 to 4 inches of water in her partially finished basement. Some neighbors had upward of 6 inches, she said.
Her family lost furniture, toys, a foosball table and, at least temporarily, the area where her children used to hang out, she said.
As of Thursday—one week and one day afterward—she estimates her family's loss of property to be in the neighborhood of $19,000. That doesn't include the repair work she has yet to get estimates for or the asbestos tiles water removal crews found in her basement that now must be removed.
The rain was notable to anyone in the area that day as many roads were under water—from major expressways such as Interstate 94 to residential streets in many metro Detroit suburbs. The National Weather Service issued a flood watch, warning of heavy spurts of rainfall that were likely to flood the already saturated ground from the especially wet spring season.
Trucks from various emergency water removal/restoration companies dotted the landscape of the Farms that day and in the days following, and trash piled up along the curbs.
Several repeated power outages from DTE led to brief disruptions in the sewer pump system, which City Manager Shane Reeside said worked as it should have. There are three sources of power for the storm pumps, each acting as a backup should one go out. The power outages cut power to all three briefly and repeatedly. The outages, Farms Water Superintendent Scott Homminga said, were less than a minute each time but such delays cause havoc on the system.
Reeside said everything worked as it should have but the incredible amount of rainfall overloaded the system. The city's engineer is completing a wrap-up report to summarize all of what occurred, which will be presented to City Council Monday during its regular meeting, Reeside said.
The magnitude of the storm is to blame for the flooding, not a malfunction in the system, Reeside said. City officials found that the last time a storm of this magnitude hit the Farms leading to major flooding was in 1954 and that storm didn't have nearly the same amount of rainfall, he said.
Without the power outages, flooding would have still been likely, Reeside said, noting it may have been slightly less but overall still unavoidable.
As required by law, the Farms mailed residents who contacted the city regarding their flooded basement damage a letter and claims form. The letter outlines that if residents believe the Farms pumping system malfunctioned and the city should have had reasonable knowledge of the potential problem before it happened, they can file a claim with the city's insurance carrier.
Reeside said more than 200 homeowners have called to add their home to the list, which continues to grow. Only a handful of claims have been submitted thus far, however, Reeside said.
The claims will be submitted for the insurance carrier's review and the insurance carrier will accept or deny the claims, Reeside said. In situations such as these, the claims, he said, are unlikely to be accepted because the storm was an act of nature that could not have been controlled and the system worked as it should.
This is the first time the Farms has lost power to all three sources of electricity for the pumps—two main power lines and a generator, Reeside said. The two main lines acted as backups to each other until the blackout several years ago when much of the northeastern portion of the country was out of power. After that, Farms officials added a generator—the third backup source of power, he said. During the blackout the loss of power wasn't a problem because there wasn't any heavy rainfall, he said.
"There is a certain element that is beyond anyone's control," Reeside said. "A hundred-year storm, there is less than a 1 percent chance of one in any given year."
In this most recent storm, the system never experienced total disruption, he said. Many of the basements that experience flooding had water seeping in through the walls because the ground was already saturated and the water had nowhere to go, he said.
To further complicate the situation, some homeowners don't have coverage for storm sewer backup or they may have limited coverage. Storm sewer backup coverage is a special election for most policies.
Sara Lolar, of the 400 block of Moran, said despite having such insurance the amount wasn't enough. She estimates loss of about $8,000 in property alone thus far, excluding the cost of the cleanup by a professional company as well as a few trips to ACE Hardware for cleanup supplies, such as garbage bags. Her estimate is likely low, too, she said.
Most of what her family lost were items that were in storage, she said, noting how bad she feels for those with finished basements.
Claims residents wish to file with the city's insurance carrier must be filed within 45 days of the flooding, which means July 9.
In addition to the letters residents received from the Farms, a Detroit law office also sent out a letter targeting flooding victims in the city. The letter offers residents to receive legal representation on a contingency basis, meaning the attorneys are not paid unless the homeowner is awarded a claim.
Patch is awaiting a return call from the law firm to see whether any residents have contacted their office for legal representation.