December 17, 2014

Heavy rains causing flooding in county and along Rifle

Kevin Bunch
A home at US-23 and M-65 had a large swath of its yard filled with water.
Kevin Bunch
The field next to the Omer Post Office filled with water.
Kevin Bunch
The Pine River at US-23 flowed beyond its banks April 18, flooding low-lying woodlands. Nearby homes were still out of reach of the waters, however.
Kevin Bunch
The Rifle River in Omer began to fill up past its usual banks as of April 18. The river measured 8.28 feet at a National Weather Service gauge in Sterling at the time.
Kevin Bunch
A ditch along M-65 was nearly full as of April 18.
Kevin Bunch
Farm fields were either flooded or muddy after heavy rains and a late thaw.
Kevin Bunch
Water filled the ground behind the Ye Olde Courthouse in Omer.
Sherry Barnum
The Rifle River was flooding its banks at White's Canoe Livery in Sterling April 18.
Sherry Barnum
Floodwaters, not a river, fill a field along M-76.
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ARENAC COUNTY — Rain pounding Arenac County starting April 17, coupled with the precipitation from an ice storm only days before, has caused flooding throughout parts of Arenac County, culminating in high water levels on the Rifle River.

“It may be coming close to record levels here,” National Weather Service meteorologist Nick Schwartz said. “One of our gauges is in the Rifle near Sterling, and it measured 8.28 feet as of 2 p.m. (April 18). The forecast puts it at 12.9 feet with it cresting Friday afternoon.”

As of Friday afternoon, the river was on track to crest at 11 feet, nearly two feet below the feared high point.

Schwartz said each of the NWS' three flood stages is based on the impact on the surrounding area; from six feet to 11 feet measured from the center of the river, it falls into a standard flood stage and impacts the River View Campground canoe livery.

At nine feet, it reaches a moderate flood stage and begins to impact the White’s Canoe Livery property, while above 11 feet the river begins impacting personal property.

“It may or may not flood people’s homes, but it does begin to affect personal property south of Townline Road,” Schwartz said, adding that continues downstream to the Melita Road bridge. “You start to see impact on properties like, say, backyards, or adjacent river property.”

The record flood height on NWS record occurred on March 28, 1950, when the Rifle River reached 13.7 feet. While this flood stage is not expected to surpass that, the river is on track to reach the second highest crest on record.

While the Rifle is the official forecast point in Arenac County, he said the NWS has also reported 0.86 inches of rain as of 8 a.m. on April 18 approximately three miles southeast of Omer, and about 3/10ths of an inch six miles north of Au Gres as of 7 a.m. the same day. Another inch to two inches of rain could hit Arenac County between April 18-19.

Schwartz said the flood forecasting is done through a number of computer programs located in Minneapolis that factor in rainfall and the views of local weather stations, such as his in Gaylord.

“People should definitely have a heightened awareness for the next 24-36 hours or so,” Schwartz said. “We have a flood warning out there right now, and any statements we have about the flood warning, people should be heeding.”

Winds also knocked power out for residents in the Omer and Twining area Friday afternoon, but power was restored at about 1:30 p.m.

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