Metro Detroit hammered by more rain, Neo Nazis charged with using vacant prisons, future of live music

Residents awoke to a familiar sound Thursday morning: pouring rain, booming thunder, and the building splashes of flooded streets. That means delays on the roadway, potentially dangerous driving scenes, and the always fearful glance downstairs to see if standing water emerged in the basement.

You could say rinse and repeat - but that would mean even more water. 

Southeast Michigan got slammed with heavy storms Thursday morning after dangerous wind gusts Wednesday afternoon knocked out power for several hundred thousand people. According to DTE and Consumers, the outlook didn't fare much better in the morning with more than 800,000 experiencing power outages.

Meanwhile, the usual culprit highways in and out of Detroit are underwater as parts of I-94, I-75, and M-39 have again become submerged underwater. By 7:30 a.m., some of that water had cleared, allowing travel to resume. But several areas remained flooded.

Here is a list of every major road closure. We're updating it regularly

The National Weather Service maintained severe thunderstorm warnings for southern portions of Oakland and Macomb counties, as well as Wayne County until at least 8:15 a.m. Flash flood warnings were also in effect for the same places.

Consumers counted more than 250,000 without power while DTE says about 560,000 of its customers were without power and 1,800 crews were in the field. The utility also advised people to remain at least 20 feet away from all downed power lines "and anything they're in contact with and consider them energized and dangerous."

Detroit airport also reported flooding that could impact traffic moving toward DTW. Lucas Drive had reopened at Middlebelt.

Even Michigan Public Radio had some trouble getting started this morning as Ann Arbor/Detroit station WUOM reported losing power and going off the air. Its generator also failed. 

Most of the inclement weather is expected to have moved on by 10 a.m. and will remain to the south of us for much of the day. 

Trail of storm damage in Wayne County

But the disappearing weather won't erase the trail of storm damage that was left in the wake of heavy winds that blitzed Southeast Michigan yesterday. It certainly won't for Audry Thompson, who celebrated her birthday yesterday. "It's not fair it's not fair," she said.

"My son took a peek at it and the floor buckled up like a rollercoaster," Thompson said after a tree toppled onto her house on Detroit's east side. "I can't stay here. I have been packing up and now I need a place to stay." No one was hurt, but there was a lot of damage.

Wind gusts reached speeds of 70 mph Wednesday afternoon, snapping branches and taking down trees in neighborhoods around the region. The storm also blew transformers and downed powerlines, which began a dark stretch of outages for DTE that is still assessing the damage from morning storms.

Meanwhile, both them and Consumers have called for backup from out-of-state to help mitigate the damage. As of Thursday morning, there is no update on when power will be restored. 

Neo Nazi members charged with using vacant Michigan prisons as 'hate camps'

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said two former state Corrections sites allegedly were being assessed by a white supremacist group called The Base as potential training areas for "hate camps." Three men, including one arrested last year after an Ann Arbor-area family was intimidated, have been charged in connection with a state police and FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force investigation.

Justen Watkins, 25, Thomas Denton, 32, and Tristan Webb, 19, are charged with gang membership, conspiracy to commit teaching use of firearms for a civil disorder, larceny in a building and using a firearm during a felony.

The vacant properties — Camp Tuscola Annex and Tuscola Residential ReEntry Program — are in Tuscola County’s Caro, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) northwest of Detroit. Each is owned by the Michigan State Land Bank. State-issued clothing taken from one of the locations last October, according to Nessel who said Wednesday in a release that "hate camps" are what The Base calls paramilitary firearms training exercises.

The Anti-Defamation League says The Base is a small, militant neo-Nazi organization that was formed in 2018 and in which members portray themselves as vigilante soldiers defending the "European race." The group is preparing for an impending race war, according to the ADL.

90% of state restaurants, hotels are understaffed

First came the lockdowns and shutdowns - and now staffing shortages as the hospitality industry continues to reel. "I think these numbers are far more stark, far more severe than we were expecting," said Justin Winslow, president of Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association.

A survey by the Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association produced alarming results hospitality industry including restaurants to hotels across the state. "Right now we're experiencing 90% of them aren't staffed, and they need to meet that demand right now," said Winslow.

Even in the month and a half since Covid restrictions lifted, leading to a spike in patrons returning to going out to eat, the burden hasn't gotten any easier on local restaurants and hotels. That includes the San Marino Club, whose director says their last seven scheduled interviews haven't shown up for work. 

The shortage of workers is leading to a limiting of services at hotels while restaurants are adjusting schedules and operating hours to slow down demand and ease pressure on their workers. The respondents say that even with increased wages this year, they still can't find applicants. 

What is the future of concerts amid tick-up in Covid?

Live music has made its return. However, COVID-19 cases are ticking back up, raising questions about what the future of concerts and other entertainment events may look like.

At comedian Dave Chapelle's show Tuesday in Detroit, attendees were required to get a COVID-19 test before the show. After getting testing and receiving a wristband showing they were negative, fans could enter the Fillmore. Testing was done at the Gem Theater parking garage, about a 10-minute walk from the Fillmore. Getting everyone tested pushed the show's start time back.

While promoters and performers figure out what future events will be like, Live Nation said it is leaving it up to artists whether they want to require a negative COVID-19 test or proof of vaccination to attend their shows. "They want it to be the concerts like they remembered but these concerts aren’t like we remembered," said music journalist Gary Graff.

Graff speculates that more artists will take advantage of promoter's offers for stricter COVID protocols."There are a lot more costs, there are a lot more potential costs, and as always the consumer will bear the brunt of that," he said. 

What else we're watching

  1. President Joe Biden's infrastructure plan cleared a major hurdle this week. But it still needs passage in the House. Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan plans to join several other big-city mayors for a zoom call to highlight the details of the plan. 
  2. The Great Lakes Water Authority has named its interim CEO to guide the water regulator through the rest of a tumultuous summer. Suzanne R. Coffey - a licensed professional engineer - is taking over for Sue McCormick, who announced her resignation last week.
  3. Chef Rodney Lubinski from The Detroit Beer Company will be preparing some of the eatery's favorites for FOX 2 this morning. Often the go-to place before Tiger's Games, there's lots to enjoy from the restaurant. 
  4. Ever wonder why it seems like it's raining so much more these days? To answer that, we first have to learn why it rains in Michigan. Here's an explainer from an MSU climatologist about what's going on. 
  5. Sarah Elizabeth Ray, who was kicked off one of the Boblo boats because she was Black, has been inducted into the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame for her civil rights activism. 

Live on FOX 2

Daily Forecast

The rain isn't expected to last forever. And when it ends, it'll be replaced by more heat and humidity that will hover over the region for the remainder of the day. Some storm activity will continue to the south and there is a chance of storms later today. An approaching cold front could mean some easier conditions this weekend. 

School districts defy GOP leaders banning mask mandates

With the highly contagious delta variant fueling a surge in coronavirus cases just as students return to classrooms, major school districts in Arizona, Florida, Texas, and beyond are increasingly defying Republican leaders who banned school mask mandates in several states.

The showdowns have drawn in the White House and landed in courtrooms where judges have so far allowed school mask requirements in two states.

Schools across the U.S. have a patchwork of different rules as they try to keep classrooms open during the coronavirus pandemic, but in several states GOP leaders banned districts from requiring all kids to wear masks.

But with infections and hospitalizations on the rise and vaccinations out of reach for young children, districts in blue-leaning urban areas especially are rebelling against the laws and requiring masks in schools — even if it means facing consequences from governors and courts. Districts in Phoenix, Dallas, Houston, Austin, San Antonio and Broward County, Florida, are among those defying the mask laws.