Rising temperatures, rain may lead to minor local flooding

By Curtis Wildfong • Last Updated 10:44 am on Thursday, February 20, 2014

Temperatures in the mid 40s have lead to melting snow, which may cause minor flooding with tomorrow’s storm, which is calling for nearly an inch of freezing rain. — Daily News/Curtis Wildfong

Thursday’s forecast calls for nearly an inch of freezing rain to fall on top of already melting piles of snow due to temperatures in the mid 40s, so water will be flowing.

Just how much is yet to be seen.

Snow has already begun to melt and can be seen running along city streets to storm drains and catch basins. Thursday’s rain is expected to add to that.

“It comes in early morning, right before rush hour, and starts as a mushy mix of freezing rain and snow,” said Jared Maples, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Rapids. “As the day goes, it will turn to rain.”

But he said any predictions of massive flooding may be exaggerated. And the piles of snow can actually be credited for that.

“The good thing about that is the snow pack is helping us in so that it will absorb some of that moisture,” Maples said.

The snow, which is piled several feet high along city streets across the area, will take in the water and compress, becoming harder and more compact.

However, Maples said, once the snow has saturated, the remaining water still has to go somewhere.

“If there are drains clogged or frozen, it may cause some urban street flooding,” he said.

The storm has city officials taking proactive approaches to tomorrow’s rainfall, trying to clear out catch basins in lower areas.

“The DPW (Department of Public Works) has been pushing snow out of there whenever they can,” said Belding City Manager Meg Mullendore. “We’ve been as proactive as we can and are keeping an eye on the catch basins.”

Officials said they know where the low elevated areas are and will keep a close eye on how the water is draining. The main goal, Greenville City Manager George Bosanic said, is to keep the drains clear of snow, ice and debris.

“We’re going to hit those when it happens,” he said. “We will be clearing catch basins and make sure it’s properly draining. If people see snow or water building up, try to clear them.”

The American Red Cross of West Michigan today issued tips for preparing for potential flood conditions and Consumers Energy is preparing for power outages.

Red Cross said it is prepared to open shelters if need be and recommends individuals and family’s to have an action plan in case of an emergency and stay aware of any flood warnings in their area.

Maples said as Thursday turns into Friday, temperatures will dip into the low 30s, freezing pools of water along roadways.

Winds of up to 40 miles per hour are also expected Thursday evening, which has Consumers Energy readying for potential outages.

“We are keeping a close eye on the weather, making our preparations and will be ready for what Mother Nature brings us,” said Mary Palkovich, vice president of energy delivery for the utility.  “While we do not anticipate this weather event to be the magnitude of the recent December ice storm, we’re committed to doing everything we can to deliver safe, reliable energy service to our customers when severe weather hits.”

Regardless of what this storm brings, the heavy amounts of snow that has fallen on the area will likely cause flooding issues at some point, said Mullendore.

Once the ground begins to thaw and the snow melts, the earth only can absorb so much.

“When the thaw comes we are going to have some issues,” she said.

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