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Michigan’s record-high water levels collide with coronavirus

DETROIT (AP) — Officials in Michigan are warning that attempts to curb the coronavirus pandemic could have serious consequences for relief and repairs during what is expected to be another tumultuous spring flooding season.

High water levels are expected to cause severe flooding, shoreline erosion, and road and infrastructure damage even worse than was seen last year, the Detroit Free Press reported.

By February, the water level of every one of the Great Lakes except Lake Ontario had reached a record high. Several places, including Ford Field Park in Dearborn, have been inundated.

“The situation we’re dealing with is unprecedented,” said Perry Rech, regional spokesman for the American Red Cross in Michigan.

The American Red Cross and other nonprofits often provide shelter to those displaced from their homes during natural disasters. That gets more complicated when public health officials are urging people to socially distance themselves and avoid crowds to help stop the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

“A shelter that may have housed 100 people in a disaster situation may now only house 40 people, or 30, when coronavirus safety is factored in,” Rech said.

Gathering emergency appropriations for repairs to roads damaged by flooding is also likely to be a challenge because agencies including Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy and the Department of Health and Human Services may need to tap their own resources to fight the coronavirus.

Michigan Department of Transportation spokesman Jeff Cranston said the real problem is where to find the money in an already challenged funding environment.

He said federal relief could only come if Michigan and the federal government declared portions of the state disaster zones because of flooding and erosion damage, something that has not occurred to date.

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