Detroit Today: How Michigan can improve its infrastructure to reduce storm damage

Detroiters share how they’re recovering from last week’s severe storm damage.

A fallen tree on a house after a storm

A fallen tree in Detroit's North End neighborhood on Friday, Aug. 25, 2023.

Last week, storms and seven tornadoes — four of them in Wayne County — hit Southeast Michigan.

As of Friday, five Michiganders had been killed, while 417,000 DTE Energy and Consumers Energy customers in Michigan lost power.

The damage was so extensive that a road to Detroit Metro Airport’s McNamara Terminal was completely flooded, along with many streets throughout Metro Detroit. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued an emergency declaration Friday to provide assistance to Wayne and Monroe counties.

Southeast Michigan’s infrastructure was not meant to handle frequent severe storms in a season — many of our political ancestors didn’t anticipate them, resulting in significant challenges in the present.

Community members joined Detroit Today to discuss why Metro Detroit is seeing more severe storms and how it’s affecting their lives.

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Josh Elling is the CEO of Jefferson East Incorporated, a nonprofit that partners with neighborhood residents and businesses on Detroit’s east side. Elling says climate change is raising the cost of living in Detroit.

“This new normal of climate change and these extreme storms [are] basically making it much more expensive to live here in the city of Detroit, in this region — heck, on planet Earth,” says Elling.

Jerome Brown is the co-owner of the restaurant Detroit Soul, who lost power because of the recent storm. Detroit Soul had to throw away spoiled food because of the outage, and Brown now needs to file an insurance claim, adding more business expenses.

“My rates are going to go up because of that claim,” explains Brown.

Nick Schroeck is the associate dean of Experiential Education and associate professor at Detroit Mercy School of Law. As an environmental law expert, Schroeck states power outages that last for prolonged periods of time are crushing families and businesses.

“The thing that I really have been asking and demanding and pushing our utilities to do is to get these outage times down,” says Schroeck.

Listen to Detroit Today with host Stephen Henderson weekdays from 9-10 a.m. ET on 101.9 WDET and streaming on-demand.

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