Grand Rapids' response to flood in April 2013
featured in the new report by
Great Lakes Saint Lawrence Cities Initiative on Adaptation and Resiliency
In April 2013, Grand Rapids experienced historic flooding. By April 18th, West Michigan had received four times the average rainfall for the month of April. The Grand River, which runs through downtown Grand Rapids, overflowed, cresting at 21.85 feet in the downtown area - nearly 3 feet above the ‘flood stage’. Hundreds of residents were forced to leave their homes in surrounding communities in West Michigan. Mayor George Heartwell declared a state of emergency on April 19th. The City of Grand Rapids suffered little damage as a result of the flooding, thanks to preemptive investments, sustainability and emergency planning, and quick response at the time of the event.
In 2003, Grand Rapids spent $12 million to raise the flood walls that protect the city. The city also invested more than $300 million over ten years to effectively bring an end to combined sewer overflows. On April 18th, with the help of staff and countless volunteers, the city built a six foot sand berm to protect the main sewage treatment plant and provided additional protection at strategic locations downtown. In the words of Mayor George Heartwell, identifying and addressing vulnerable infrastructure in advance ’averted disaster’ in the city.