July 29 2021

Rain and Flooding: What You Need to Know

On Saturday, July 24, a fast, intense storm moved in from the west and battered Oakland County with heavy rains, hail, and even sporadic tornadoes. When the rains ended, Ferndale had received nearly 2 inches of water in under 50 minutes--significantly more water in a shorter time than our combined water-sewer system, or that of any other similarly aged metro Detroit city--is capable of happening. 

The result was a number of local flooding events. Within 48 hours, we had received many reports of water backups ranging from minor gurgling in toilets to several inches of standing basement water. 

"Despite DPW's best efforts to prevent flooding, unfortunately, our systems can't always keep up with the heavy rainfall,” said Public Works Deputy Director Dan Antosik. “Our team has been working hard to assess and respond to all flooding reports and has been exploring options to address future events."

With weather events like these, we truly are all in this together. And we mean that in the most literal sense: even the City isn't spared by these heavy rains. Ferndale City Hall and the Gerry Kulick Community Center also experienced flooding with notable damage to both buildings.

The best way we can combat these kinds of incidents is to work together and be prepared. We understand this can be a confusing and frustrating occurrence, so we’ve provided an overview of the rain and flooding processes, the City’s role, and the best course of action to take.


What should I do?

If you have a water backup in your basement, please contact the Department of Public Works (DPW) at 248-546-2519 or report it to our SeeClickFix portal. Mobile apps are also available via Apple and Google.

If there is flooding in your street that doesn’t recede in a few hours, please report it to SeeClickFix. If the drain on your street appears to be clogged, please contact DPW, or if you can, attempt to unclog the debris yourself.

If there is an urgent issue, such as significant flooding, and DPW is not available, please contact the Ferndale Police non-emergency line at 248-541-3650.

If there is a critical issue, such as a downed power line, please dial 911.

We also suggest that in heavy periods of rain to refrain from activities of high-water intake. If possible, avoid doing laundry, showering, running the dishwasher, or other activities that use a lot of water. This will help prevent the sewer system from being overwhelmed with the additional rainfall.

Why is this happening?

Ferndale and our neighborhood cities use a combined stormwater and sewer system, which means the things we flush and put down the sink drain, in addition to the combined stormwater, all end up in the same place toward the Kuhn Water Retention & Treatment Basin.

While there’s plenty of space in the underground system to handle regular activities like flushing the toilet and running the dishwasher, the system can be overwhelmed in periods of long, intense rains. This can be especially trivial if the lines are re-blocked by roots and other debris.

The infrastructure is the same as it was 80 years ago at installation. However, the climate has changed since then. Heavy rains that were previously referred to as “100-year storms” are occurring much more frequently – even annually.

Flooded streets can be caused by one of two things:

   ·  Debris is covering your street’s catch basin.

   ·  Slow drip catch basins are installed to purposely flood the street to keep water from overwhelming the water and sewer system. In this instance, it is better       on the street than in your basement.


What is the City doing?

The DPW team performs annual cleaning and lining of sewer lines and basins. Regular cleaning and jetting are similar to a high-pressure wash. There is also a major assessment of the lines every four years.

As developments continue, the City will abide by building standards that are conscious of development and density which can lead to more pressure in the system. Increasing pervious surfaces and decreasing impervious surfaces will help increase the absorption of rainwater.

Underground retention systems are often used for new larger developments, which allows water and waste to slow roll into the City’s system. Our City Sustainability Planning Manager ensures these standards are met.

Regular street sweeping also ensures that loose debris will be removed and not clog the drains.


How can I prevent this?

The best way to prevent this is to have your sewer line annually surveyed, snaked, and jetted regularly by a trained plumber.

Be careful of what you flush. Kleenex, flushable wipes, and other items should go in the trash. Otherwise, they can potentially clog your system.


For more information, please contact DPW at 248-546-2519.