We had suffered the “Winter-that-would-never-end”, so the ground was already saturated with snowmelt when 2 rainy weeks dumped a total of 3″ of rain upon our area. The additional 1″ of rain received early in the morning of April 17th was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Watersheds throughout Allegan and Barry Counties were pushed beyond their limits – and our own Cuddy Drain, aided by human carelessness, went on a rampage.
Since I had already been studying the Cuddy, and knowing it had been “full” prior to so much rain overnight, I grabbed my camera and headed out to snap some pictures. I had lived here at Gun Lake back in 1997, and witnessed the Great Flood back then, so wasn’t too startled to see history repeating itself….
Mlynarchek’s house on Patterson and the Cuddy
In 1997, a heavy rain had washed a tree stump down the drain, plugging the culverts under Patterson, and flooding Mrs Mlynarchek’s property. To prevent something like that from happening again, a steel rebar grate was installed on the upstream side of the Patterson Bridge, to hold debris away from the culverts. Unfortunately, last fall the Allegan Road Commission had cut back trees, branches, and shrubs along 1st St (in anticipation of closing Petterson for the bridge replacement) – and left all the woody debris “lying in the ditch”. The problem is that the “ditch” is actually the Tawsley/Holbrook Drain (an upper tributary of the Cuddy); and once it filled with water, much of that debris was carried downstream where it clogged up the grate at Patterson, essentially creating a dam 😦
Clearing the woody debris from the grate with an excavator
Silty outflow from Patterson
Fortunately, this time the Cuddy was kept confined to its channel, more or less. The 1997 Flood almost washed away Patterson Rd, washed out a large section along the east side of Patterson exposing the gas main; and destroyed seawalls on the opposite channel shore. This time, the Road Commission acted quickly to clear the debris.
Excavator clears debris
10 cubic yards of debris
Please note the nicely sawed-off ends of the branches in the debris pile – this is NOT “naturally-occuring deadfall”. This came from cutting back trees on First St.
Next, I drove over to First St:
Looking north on 1st St
Clearly, a large portion of 1st St had been underwater at some point – you can see the waterline about 50 yards behind my car. The water on the left side of the picture is the Tawsley/Holbrook Drain that runs next to 1st St, and is filled with debris still… that debris also clogged up the smaller culverts running under 1st St.
Looking to the south on 1st St
The plugged culverts are where you see the logs that were carried across the road by the water.
Looking west up the Cuddy Drain
You can see the small circular whirlpool where a tiny bit of water is trying to go through the culverts
Looking downstream at 1st St
Note the silt-laden water coming from the culvert under the driveway (top right corner of photo) – that’s the road shoulder washing away….
Shoulder of 1st St washing out
Surface of 1st St is half gone
The top layer, an inch or more, of 1st St is simply scoured away – washed INTO the Cuddy Drain. Much of the road’s shoulders suffered the same fate. This picture is critical – because shortly after I took it, the Road Commission showed up; and one of the things they did was to re-grade the road. I might have been one of the few who witnessed this senseless erosion, cause by the woody debris left behind by the Road Commission.
Here they are – about to block off the road so an excavator can clear the debris. More about this later.
Further upstream, Timber Creek Dr was faring much better than its downstream neighbors – the Cuddy was swollen, but contained within its banks. It’s also relatively “clean” (compared to downstream) Of course, there’s also no debris up here, so the culverts were able to handle the additional load!
Timber Creek, looking west
Timber Creek looking east
Confluence of Boot Lk Drain & Cuddy Drain, looking east
The next morning, I got a phone call from a friend who said that 1st St was washed out. I said “no it’s not – I drove across it yesterday morning” He said “You need to go look at it, and bring your camera”.
Well, Holy Cow!!!!!!!!!!
The death of 1st St
It seems the Allegan County guys, in their efforts with an excavator to clear the debris (sitting in the road in the foreground) – managed to snag the ends of the culverts with the excavator, and pulled them out! That’s the biggest “oopsy!” I’ve ever seen! So yes, now 1st St is closed, and I’ve heard rumors that it might get repaired – or might not. I feel bad for the folks who live on 1st St who now have a daily detour….
Also – the easiest way for the County guys to block the road for cars thinking they can drive around the barricade… is to dump HUGE piles of sand on either side of the washout, extending the entire width of the road. You know, the road with the DRAIN IMMEDIATELY ADJACENT TO IT. Great – just what we DON’T need washing into the Cuddy 😦
Back on Patterson – once cleared, the culverts are doing a slow-but-steady job of lowering the Cuddy water levels
Mlynarchek’s yard emerging from the flood
But the old bridge hasn’t fared well against the onslaught – it’s clear that the base has been somewhat undermined. The Patterson Bridge was already in the works to be replaced – this damage shows that it needs to be done.
Damage to the Patterson shoulder
But the bottom line? If the Allegan County Road Commission had casually mentioned to the Allegan County Drain Commission “Hey – we might have left some debris in your drain?” – ALL this flooding would never have happened.
As a postscript: don’t think all the debris is done washing down the Cuddy – oh no, far from it:
Debris accumulated in 8 weeks after the flood
On June 15th, 2013, Greg Purcell and I braved the mosquitoes and Poison Ivy (and the ever-present E-coli) – and walked down the Cuddy Drain from 1st St to Patterson. It’s a lovely walk through a beautiful forest – but at the end, we were greeted by the ever-growing pile of debris on the grate again 😦
In all fairness, yesterday, when I took my photos (see previous post) – the grate was clean. Not sure who cleared it – but since Greg and I had mentioned the new accumulation to Russ Yarger, Barry County Drain Commissioner – I think he’s responsible 🙂
Thank you, Mr Guardian Angel of the Cuddy!