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Portland recovery: 1 year after flooding

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Posted at 8:37 PM, Feb 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-07 20:37:15-05

LANSING, Mich. — The Ionia County City of Portland is using this week to remember the ice jams that caused severe flooding last year at this time.

The flooding forced many Portland businesses and homeowners to evacuate.

Geese peacefully swam through the Grand River in Portland Friday, which would have been impossible to do a year ago when an ice jam in the river created severe flooding near its banks.

"When all of the ice moved, it moved for 5 to 10 minutes and then it completely stopped again and that was when the water started rising like crazy and our hearts just sank," said Jim Hilligan, Confluxcity owner.

Initial flooding began Feb. 6 but less than two days later, the rising waters forced Hilligan and a dozen others out of their homes and riverside businesses.

"We got evacuated in the middle of the night and it just became real," Hilligan said.

The city said the ice jams were inevitable.

"The ice ham spanned the entire length of the city and longer so the idea of trying to break up ice proactively was not realistic and many excavation equipment just wasn't practical especially when you were going to use a worker that would put themselves in harms way to perform those tasks," said Tutt Gorman, Portland city manager.

The city's request for $100,000 in emergency funding was denied but the city manager said that's an issue that's not "water under the bridge."

"We were disappointed but we are going to work with the governor's office and the MSP because there is currently an advisory committee that's been established with myself to look at those rules to see if there is areas of clarification and hope things will improve," Gorman said.

Although 2020's mild winter is giving the city some hope that flooding isn't a concern this year, residents and authorities say it's still always on their mind.

"I think it's going to be in our heads forever, you know you get that feeling in the pit of your stomach and that's never going to go away," Hilligan said.

"In the five years that I have been here there have been two natural disasters so there will be something again, I guarantee someday, but we will be ready for it," said Gorman.

The City of Portland also said they're working with local and national authorities to create plans on how to prevent ice jams before they cause major flooding.

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