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Power failures fuel freeway flooding in metro Detroit; how did it happen?

Posted at 5:51 AM, Jun 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-28 15:30:52-04

(WSYM) — The Michigan Department of Transportation said the heavy rains we received over the weekend overwhelmed the pumping system designed to mitigate flooding.

Miles of freeway across much of Wayne County were under as much as eight feet of water at some points, trapping dozens of semis and hundreds of motorists. It made I-94 more suitable for boats than wheels.

MDOT has 140 pumps across metro Detroit to prevent extreme flooding like this from happening. This weekend, dozens stopped working.

What exactly is a pump and what does it do? When rain falls, water enters the sump pump room first. The water is then carried from the sump pump room to the pump room.

Five pumps at a station on M-39 rotate the work to prevent burn-out, each carrying stormwater from the road into the Rouge River.

New technology helps crews monitor pump stations in the system 24/7, so if something goes wrong, ideally, crews are alerted immediately.

In January 2020, MDOT told us that generators would be brought out in case of a power outage, but this weekend, MDOT was short on generators and initially said they were short on crews.

MDOT spokeswoman Diane Cross said that crews have nothing to do with any of the flooding, because the rivers can't take more water.

According to Cross, there are 117 pumps in Wayne County.

"That tells you how much the freeways are lower than ground level and how we have to run those pump houses to get the water out from below ground and pump it into another water source," Cross said. "So until the rivers can take more water, we have nowhere to pump the water off of I-94 and take it."