Detroit Flooding: Ford, Lodge, Chrysler, Southfield Freeways and I-696 Underwater After Historic Rainfall Event

By Nick Wiltgen
Published: August 12, 2014

Detroit and its suburbs were inundated with record-shattering rainfall during the afternoon rush Monday, leaving many motorists stuck on flooded freeways and arterial roads. Some cars were nearly submerged to their roofs when they drove into flooded underpasses. Countless city and suburban neighborhood streets were also submerged.

At least five major freeways had stretches that were completely blocked by floodwaters Monday evening, according to the Michigan Department of Transportation's (MDOT) website.

Those included portions of the Ford Freeway (Interstate 94), the Chrysler Freeway (Interstate 75), Interstate 696, the Southfield Freeway, and the Lodge Freeway.

Portions of those freeways remained closed as of early Tuesday morning, 10 hours after the last of the rain had moved out of the area.

MDOT said there is no estimate of when I-75 at I-696 in the northern suburbs would reopen, and recommended avoiding I-696 near and east of I-75 through Warren until further notice. According to a traffic camera, one-lane of slow-moving only began to move through Interstate 94 at Livernois Ave. west of downtown Detroit Tuesday morning. A mudslide blocked the Southfield Freeway northbound at Grand River.

Each flooded area needs to be cleaned and inspected before reopening, according to MDOT. 

(MORE: Latest Severe Weather Forecast)

"I've lived in this area 40 years, and can't ever recall all the major expressways closing for flooding like happened in today's storms," said Jeff Masters, director of meteorology for The Weather Channel's sister company, Weather Underground.

This observation was backed up by Detroit native WDIV-TV Local 4 meteorologist Paul Gross. "I have lived my entire life and worked my entire career here, and I have never seen as widespread a flooding event. I also remember some individual intense thunderstorms that flooded one freeway. But I don't ever remember every freeway being flooded out."

Michigan State Police advised motorists to avoid all non-essential travel on metro Detroit freeways, according to the Detroit Free Press.

A swath taking in the western and northern sides of Detroit proper and the adjacent western and northern suburbs appeared to be hardest hit. There were dozens, if not hundreds, of photos and videos posted to social media of flooded neighborhood streets and major thoroughfares.

Photos of flooded basements surfaced on social media from all over metro Detroit, including Detroit itself and the suburbs of Dearborn, Dearborn Heights, Highland Park, Hamtramck, Oak Park, Ferndale, Berkley and Rosedale. Basement flooding was also reported in Huntington Woods, according to the National Weather Service.

Some of the heaviest rain came in the 6 p.m. hour, when 1.24 inches of rain fell at Detroit Metropolitan Airport in just 24 minutes, part of a record-breaking 4.57 inches of total rainfall for the day. It is the second-heaviest calendar-day rainfall on record in the Motor City, behind only a 4.74-inch deluge on July 31, 1925.

In Oakland County, a spotter reported 6.25 inches of rain over just 12 hours in Southfield.

Despite measuring its snowiest winter on record earlier this year, breaking a 133-year-old record, Detroit's precipitation total for 2014 to date was near normal before Monday's storm.

Here are some of the many flooding images that emerged from social media across metro Detroit Monday.

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