Rain, high water close some streets

The Michigan Department of Transportation closed off West Main Street in Benton Harbor on Thursday near Riverview Drive after a portion of the road flooded.

BENTON HARBOR — Flooding closed streets in Benton Harbor and St. Joseph on Thursday, which left drivers avoiding some of the cities main roads.

The Michigan Department of Transportation closed a portion of West Main Street in Benton Harbor and Ship Street in St. Joseph.

Drivers attempting to access Main Street were detoured to M-63, Napier Avenue and M-139.

MDOT spokesman Nick Schirripa said the flooding was due to Thursday’s rainfall, combined with wind coming off of Lake Michigan.

“The wind has been pushing water back into the sewer system,” Schirripa said. “The street near the roundabout is under 2 feet of water along that business loop. It will be closed until the flooding recedes.”

MDOT announced the road closings via social media on Thursday morning and posted alerts on its MIDrive map.

All lanes of eastbound traffic on Ship Street at M-63 were closed, MDOT posted at 9:25 a.m. Thursday.

At 11:42 a.m., MDOT said a section of West Main Street was closed, at Riverview Drive, also due to water over the road.

The closures came as the National Weather Service warned of dangerous conditions and waves on Lake Michigan.

Schirripa said the flooding was isolated on Main Street in front of Whirlpool Corp.’s Riverview Campus. The portion of the street in front of the appliance maker, just south of the roundabout closest to the bridge, has a sewer grate.

“Lake Michigan is at a record high level right now,” Schirripa said. “With the rain and wind blowing in off the lake, it looks like the water is going up through the channels. There is a drain near the roundabout where the water is pushing up and out through the sewer grate.”

Schirripa said Thursday that MDOT will wait until the flooding recedes before it reopens the street. He said there is no timeline.

“I know there was some concern earlier in the week when the water started to back up,” Schirripa said. “We haven’t seen anything like this in this spot (of Benton Harbor).”

South Haven situation

A similar story was taking place in South Haven on Thursday, as road flooding along Dunkley Avenue led city officials to once again closing down the road to traffic.

City officials first issued a notice for temporary closure of the T-shaped roadway Monday, and then reissued it again Thursday, after the area suffered another bout of heavy, continuous rainfall.

The sections that were closed were from Black River Park to Dyckman Avenue and from Dunkley Avenue to the Black River Park overflow parking entrance.

The roadway will remain closed until water levels rescind, according to a news release issued Thursday by the city’s Department of Public Works.

Over the past two years the city spent several million dollars to make significant upgrades to lift stations and sanitary and storm sewer lines near Dunkley. However the record-high water levels of Lake Michigan and the Black River are again causing the Dunkley flooding.

“Lake Michigan is at its highest level ever and that is affecting drainage,” said DPW Director Bill Hunter.

Beach swamped

The waves and high water levels all but covered South Beach on Thursday. At times Thursday it was difficult to distinguish portions of the pier from the angry waters of the Black River channel.

The only people on the beach and in the water were a group of kite boarders. Although the kite boarders are used to rough weather conditions and wear safety gear, South Haven Area Emergency Services Fire Chief Ron Wise still was concerned when asked about the weather conditions on Thursday, brought on by the cold front that moved in and brought heavy rainfall during the morning and early afternoon.

“We highly advise people to stay away from the lake today, especially the piers,” he said.

HP staff contributed to this story.

Contact: twittkowski@TheHP.com, 932-0358, Twitter: @TonyWittkowski