Residents along Musk. River asked to evacuate

The view from above as the Muskegon River floods in Newaygo County. (April 14. 2014)

NEWAYGO COUNTY, Mich. (WOOD) — Officials with Newaygo County are asking residents who live along the Muskegon River to evacuate because of rising flood waters.

Abby Watkins, Newaygo County’s emergency manager, told 24 Hour News 8 the river at the Croton River Gauge was at 11.39 feet Monday afternoon — more than two feet higher than the 9-foot flood stage. That’s also higher than the river was during the flooding of April 2013.

The Muskegon River on April 13 (left) and April 14 (right). (Courtesy Nick Surman via ReportIt)
The Muskegon River on April 13 (left) and April 14 (right). (Courtesy Nick Surman via ReportIt)

Authorities are asking people who live along the river below Croton Dam to evacuate.

“The river is rising so fast … that we want them to get out before it’s too late,” Watkins said.

Emergency Service officials fear the flood could be the worst the area has seen since at least the mid-1990s. The water is expected to rise over 13 feet or higher by Wednesday. If that happens, some 250 homes in the flood plain would be in danger.

“This year, this is major flooding,” Watkins said. “It’s not minor. It’s major.”

The Grand Rapids National Weather Service has issued a flood warning for the Muskegon River below the Croton Dam. Because additional rainfall is being predicted for later in the week, the threat of flooding is in place through next week.

Inside River levels

Crews Monday went going door-to-door to check on people along the river and ask them to leave their homes.

“I can’t make you, but I’m advising you,” one emergency responder told a resident Monday.

Fremont firefighters advise people to evacuate as the Muskegon River floods. (April 14, 2014)
(Fremont firefighters advise people to evacuate as the Muskegon River floods. April 14, 2014)

Some people say they’re not going anywhere.

“I’m not leaving. I’m staying ’til she drops,” said resident Scott Fox, who has lived along the Muskegon River most of his life and plans to stay put with his dog Flint. “It’s my home, so I’m going to stay here.”

Others have already left their homes, leaving behind many of their belongings. Brenda Payton and her husband have evacuated before, so they knew how to prepare to leave this time.

“We raise everything up as best we can. We move a lot of stuff to the garage because it’s a little higher than the house. And then we vacate,” Payton said.

They left their home around 2 a.m. Monday after seeing encroaching waters.

“Last year, we had six to eight inches. This year, they’re saying one to two feet more,” Payton said.

The pair is staying in their motorhome for now.

“You prepare for the worst, hope for the best,” Payton said.

Snow on the Muskegon River after temperatures dropped below freezing. (April 14, 2014)
(Snow on the Muskegon River after temperatures dropped below freezing. April 14, 2014)

Watkins said the county is working on cutting power to homes that may take on water. Only homes within the evacuation warning zones would be affected and impacted residents will be notified. The goal would be to protect property by preventing electrical fires. The county is warning residents that power could be cut regardless of whether they have evacuated.

County officials have also shut down access sites to the river, telling people to stay off the water.

Newaygo County officials say residents should take the following steps to prepare for evacuation:

  • Collect only essential items to take with you including prescription medications.
  • Close and lock all doors and windows.
  • Unplug electrical equipment such as radios, televisions, and small appliances including microwaves. Leave freezers and refrigerators plugged in unless there is a risk of flooding.
  • Take all family members and pets with you.
  • If you have transportation, offer assistance to your neighbors if they have no transportation.
  • Follow recommended evacuation routes. Do not take shortcuts, they may be blocked.
  • Be alert for washed out roads and bridges. Do not drive into water covering the road or flooded areas and Stay away from downed power lines.
  • Continue monitoring your radio for additional information.
  • Call 911 to report a life threatening condition.

The American Red Cross has set up a shelter for people affected by the flooding at Resonate Church, located at 302 E. 68th Street in Newaygo, a release said. The Salvation Army will be providing meals and snacks.

The evacuation request was a warning as of Monday rather than an order. An evacuation order would have to come from the governor’s office, and Watkins said that’s not yet appropriate. A catastrophe such as Croton Dam collapsing would be necessary to justify that order — and that’s not likely because the dam is working properly.

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