Isabella County officials say disaster proclamation was key in recovery after 2017 flood

Published: Jan. 15, 2020 at 5:43 PM EST
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(01/15/2020) - In 2017, several Mid-Michigan counties were declared states of emergency after heavy rain brought historic flooding to the area.

In 2020, water levels on the Great Lakes are prompting communities to look to the state and federal government for similar declarations to help combat the issues the rising water is posing.

The 2017 floods prompted a state and federal disaster proclamation in Isabella County. Margaret McAvoy, the county's administrator, said the proclamations meant a lot to recovery efforts.

"It meant more to us than I can ever explain to you," she said. "It meant more to this community and to the leadership of this community to have that level of support and interest."

On June 23, 2017, county officials declared a local state of emergency and later that evening former Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley signed a state declaration of emergency.

On July 21, former Governor Rick Snyder requested a federal disaster declaration and on August 2, the declaration was approved by the president.

These declarations brought in additional resources and agencies.

"It meant that we were partners with these other municipalities and these other public institutions," McAvoy said. "They weren't looking at us going oh, it's a little county in the middle of Michigan. They were looking at us going the scope of their disaster is massive for them and it was."

An initial damage assessment conducted by county officials estimated more than $80 million in damage.

McAvoy said Isabella County ended up receiving more than $600,000 from the state of Michigan for recovery efforts. An additional $900,000 grant was also given to the county by the United States Department of Agriculture.

Central Michigan University was given more than $900,000 to alleviate some of the damage costs on campus.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) assisted those who saw damage on private property. McAvoy did not have an estimate for how much money was given out by FEMA.

Looking back on the disaster, McAvoy said that teamwork made the difference in responding and cleaning up after the storm.

"We were very fortunate here," she said. "We had a great plan. We had a very effective team managing that plan with our emergency management departments and our leadership. We had a great relationship among partners and we all worked together and in the end, I think it was a great response for our citizens."

As communities along shorelines in Michigan potentially seek disaster declarations themselves, McAvoy said that the system in place works well to help recover.

"It's a system in place and it worked so very well for us," she said. "The communication was fabulous and I know that other counties have done the same training, they have the same possibilities."

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