6 flood prevention tips for Metro Detroit residents

It's never too late to start shoring up homes for the next big storm. Which, as Metro Detroit has seen since the start of the summer, can arrive again and again and again.

While disaster declarations submitted by the governor and approved by the president can help after the fact, they won't do much for the initial headache and heartburn from seeing standing water in one's basement.

Here are some ways to mitigate damage before the water arrives.

Unclog your gutters

Water can't flood your basement if it doesn't manage to get in. That's what gutters are for.

Downspouts are designed to carry running water falling on your house away from the foundation. It's wise to make sure all of these are properly fitted and pointed away from your home.

"One of the main things homeowners can do, is ensuring gutter's downspouts are connected and running away from the foundation of the home," said Palencia Mobley, the deputy director and chief engineer of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department. 

If they become detached or clogged, water could pour straight down next to the home. It's one of the easiest ways for water to get in the basement if a foundation isn't secured. 

Snake the pipes

But, maybe gutter maintenance isn't possible. Or your home sits on a slope and water will pool at the foundation anyways. If it does, its next stop may be the basement. That doesn't mean issues if it has someplace to go. Most basements should have a drain at their low points for water to channel toward.

But, those drains don't always work. Pipes get broken and blocked by tree roots. Any debris that hasn't already been collected to further obstruct passage could be carried with the running water. 

If that happens, it won't be long before water pools up and quits draining, meaning water won't be going anywhere but up. 

Plumbers often recommend snaking - or clearing out - residents' drains once a year if they have experienced clogging issues since replacing pipes can be thousands of dollars. 

Rain gardens

They beautify neighborhoods and add green space to concrete jungles. But rain gardens - as the name implies - offer a great place to channel excess water. 

The addition of rain gardens and go a long way in impermeable environments like the pavement-heavy region of Southeast Michigan. 

"We should be doing things like rain gardens so we can build a habitat and solve problems with flooding and pollution, it's a no-brainer," said Matthew Bertrand, restoration coordinator and landscape designer.

Nonprofits like Friends of the Rouge and Detroit Future City often specialize in building them or accessing grant funding for installing them. However, these are often neighborhood and community-driven projects that can get expensive. 

Sewer check valves

Horror stories of a city's sewer system backing up and bringing all the refuse that comes with a sewer system are not uncommon in cities. Especially in old metropolitan places like Detroit that combine stormwater runoff with sewer systems. 

Don't count on any restorations to the old system anytime soon. But residents can have private sewer companies install check valves in their homes that will keep any public water from flowing into the house. 

That can be especially helpful for flood-prone areas like the Jefferson-Chalmers neighborhood. 

Sump pumps

Removing the water already there or catching it as it's incoming can be handled with a well-functioning sump pump. 

These machines can be the backbone behind removing standing water from a basement. Getting them installed can be a pricey endeavor, but companies often offer free quotes, which means shopping around can be advantageous.

But a warning: with flooding comes potential power outages. Sump pumps usually run on electricity which doesn't bode well for communities with downed power lines. A battery backup can be a lifesaver in this scenario.

Install a flood alert system

It won't stop the flooding, but a flood alert system will tell you what's on the way. 

That will give you valuable time to remove valuables and anything else that would otherwise be ruined by flooding.