After a harsh winter season, Lansing Emergency Management warns residents of minor flooding

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After heavy winter season, Lansing expects more flooding.

The Emergency Management, housed in the Lansing Fire Department, wants residents of Lansing to be aware and cautious of rising rivers and rain as we move into spring in the coming weeks.

“We normally have a 5 to 20 percent chance of flooding,” said Ronda Oberlin, a specialist in mitigation and emergency preparedness at Emergency Management. “This year the chance is 90 to 100 percent of at least minor flooding.”

Oberlin said flooding risk is higher because Lansing has seen more snow than normal and therefore the ground is also more frozen than normal.

Because temperatures are still in the lows, flooding from seasonal rain, melted snow and runoff has not affected residents yet.

Oberlin said because of the heavy ice storm in December, debris jams from fallen trees and branches and melting snow can cause minor flooding upstream.

Though Oberlin said the long-lasting cold weather has slowed runoff, the chance of minor flooding this spring is still anticipated.

“[Flooding] does seem to be a little different than last year, but not by too much,” Austin Parish, a teaching assistant for Michigan State University in Integrative Studies for Physical Science, said. “The flooding we’re seeing now is typical for this time of year.”

“The worst case scenario is moderate flooding, which can be very severe,” Oberlin said. “Moderate flooding is where homes start to become flooded. Right now, we’re only anticipating minor flooding.”

According to the Lansing Fire Department, 9 percent of the city is in the floodplain and only 25 percent of residents in the floodplain have flood insurance.

Oberlin said Lansing has about 2,100 homes in the floodplain including 200 businesses.

“Businesses and homes near a river are more affected,” Oberlin said.

Those near the Grand River, Red Cedar River and Sycamore Creek are at higher risk of flooding.

According to Parish, the Lansing’s downtown area does not see flooding, but it is the residential areas in the floodplain that need to be cautious and aware of flood risks in Lansing.

Oberlin said the exception to that are those who are located in low areas where runoff can affect higher flooding.

“The very first thing we want [people] to do is be aware of whether or not they are in the floodplain,” Oberlin said. “They need to keep an eye on the rivers. They need to watch when there is a flood warning.”

Parish said Lansing has several man-made barriers along rivers and utilizes resources such as sandbags and inflatable flood barriers to mitigate flooding.

Parish also said people need to be wise when buying a home and understand how intense flooding can get from rising rivers after the winter, as well as look back at historical records of flooding to see how dangerous floods can be.

“It all really comes down to the intensity of the flooding,” Parish said.

Oberlin advises Lansing residents to utilize water.weather.gov, which gives real time weather readings and floodsmart.gov, which allows residents to find out their risk.

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