City of Kalamazoo bracing for record flooding on Saturday

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Dozens of cadets with the Police Academy spent their Thursday afternoon filling large white bags with thick heavy sand. Some cadets shoveled it in while others tied up the bags. Within an hour, they stacked them one on top of the other in front the doors at police headquarters in preparation for Saturday’s floods.

“What we want to talk bout today is what we’re anticipating to be historic flooding on the Kalamazoo River,” said City Manager Jim Ritsema during a press conference at City Hall. “This will occur likely Saturday night and it will be, what we’re anticipating, more than what we saw in the historic flood of 2008.”

According to the National Weather Service, water is expected to rise to at least 11.4-feet, which is a foot more than what the river crested at in 2008, said the city’s public services director Jim Baker. Over 60 homes and businesses are expected to be affected, including traffic around Bronson Hospital.

“The ability for citizens and business travel around Kalamazoo will be severely limited on north/south road access,” said Baker standing next to officials with KDPS and the county's  Sheriff’s Office. “We’re currently working on traffic control plans [and] detour routes.”

Officials said closures will be posted to the city’s web page. However, their main concern is the public's safety. They’re asking all residents to stay out of standing water on Saturday.

“You don’t know what’s in there, whether it’s electric wires, could be raw sewage,” said Pat Wright with Kalamazoo County Emergency Management. “If you’re driving down a road and it’s covered, you don’t know what’s under there, if the road is washed away, don’t pass through it. Actually, water that’s ankle deep can be moving fast enough to knock you off your feet.”

City leaders in Battle Creek are issuing the same warning to their residents. David VanDorsten, lives up on a hill near Bailey Park and he said the water creeped up in his basement to levels he’s never seen before.

“I was telling my wife this, if my basement got flooded Battle Creek would be in a state of emergency because they would be totally underwater by 5 feet,” said VanDorsten. “That’s how bad it would be.”

VanDorsten was out with his wife at ANYBodies playground looking at the floods. He believes the water will recede but if more precipitation comes this weekend, then it could get worse.

“I’ve lived here my whole life and I’ve never ever seen anything come up this high,” he said. “And thats saying a lot because I’m 71-years-old and I’m telling you right now I grew up here and I’ve never seen it like this.”

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