First responders in Mich., Nev., Ohio respond to water rescues in tropical storm’s aftermath
Tropical Storm Hilary deluged several states with rainfall rates above an inch an hour
By Mike Householder and Samantha Hendrickson
ROMULUS, Mich. — Heavy rains across parts of the United States flooded an Ohio highway where people were rescued from their cars, covered the Las Vegas Strip with water and temporarily closed a busy airport terminal outside Detroit.
Parts of the western United States have been deluged in recent weeks with rain from Tropical Storm Hilary, and much of the central U.S. was beaten down by deadly sweltering heat. In Hawaii and Washington, emergency crews battled catastrophic wildfires.
Areas in southeast Michigan got over 5 inches (12.7 centimeters) of rain by Thursday morning, resulting in street flooding in the Detroit area, including tunnels leading to Detroit Metropolitan Airport in the suburb of Romulus, officials said. Officials reopened the airport’s McNamara Terminal Thursday afternoon.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer activated the State Emergency Operations Center on Thursday evening to provide support to affected communities “as they respond to the impacts of flooding.”
A few hours earlier Thursday, Mitzi Hale and her three sons ate some snacks out of a vending machine as they awaited word on the status of the terminal.
The 42-year-old and her sons — 10, 13 and 20 — were to board a mid-morning flight to Florida. They were scheduled to visit Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom theme park on Friday before embarking on a Disney cruise through the Caribbean, beginning on Saturday.
Making matters worse: The quartet had the same vacation booked for last November, but missed out due to a tropical storm that struck the region.
“We’re just having flashbacks,” said Hale, who lives in Brighton, Michigan.
Scientists say that without extensive study they cannot directly link a single weather event to climate change, but that climate change is responsible for more intense and more frequent extreme events such as storms, droughts, floods and wildfires. Climate change is largely caused by human activities that emit carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, according to the vast majority of peer-reviewed studies, science organizations and climate scientists.
The overnight storms caused power outages across Michigan, concentrated in the Detroit area. Later in the day, after severe storms in the western part of the state, more than 100,000 homes and businesses were in the dark across Michigan, according to poweroutage.us.
“We were getting rainfall rates above an inch an hour, which is pretty significant,” said Brian Cromwell, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Detroit.
Cromwell added that more severe thunderstorms with torrential rains were possible over the region Thursday evening.
Up to 8 inches of rain (20 centimeters) also hit some areas of north-central Ohio, according to Brian Mitchell with the National Weather Service in Cleveland. The northeast part of the state saw at least 5 inches (12.7 centimeters) from midday Wednesday into Thursday morning, with winds reaching up to 60 mph (37 kph) in some areas.
Lorain County, which received around 6 inches (15.2 centimeters) of rain, canceled its county fair Thursday due to “storms, flooding, closed roads and damage.”
In Lakewood, Ohio, 10 people were rescued from seven cars on a section of Interstate 90 on Wednesday night after their vehicles got stuck in the water that reached to the windows, Capt. Gary Stone said. The highway was shut down in both directions at one point. No one was hurt.
“It was a bad mess down there,” Stone said, noting that while Lakewood is often hit by bad storms coming off of Lake Erie, this kind of flooding was unheard of.
In Las Vegas, a fast-moving storm flooded parts of the city, including the strip. Police started getting calls shortly before 9 p.m. Wednesday for help and rescued one person, Metropolitan Police Department Lt. Miguel Ibarra told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. But he said another person was believed to be missing.
Police attempted a rescue around 9:30 p.m., but were unsuccessful and were still searching, Ibarra said. He said there may be two other victims. A message seeking further comment was left with the department.
Accumulations were less than an inch, the National Weather Service said. More rain was in the forecast Thursday.
“We do have so much moisture” lingering from tropical storms Hilary and the remnants of Harold, meteorologist Jenn Varian said Thursday morning.
Meanwhile, it was the heat — not rainfall — causing problems in the Midwest and forcing children across the country to learn in hotter classrooms or go home early. Des Moines Public Schools in Iowa announced that is was dismissing classes three hours early on Thursday, the second day of the fall semester.
Schools officials said in a news release that most district buses are not air-conditioned, and that several drivers had to be monitored for heat exhaustion at the end of Wednesday’s routes. The forecast for Thursday was equally bad, with the National Weather Service predicting a high of 99 that would actually feel more like 109 because of the humidity.