September in Michigan is usually a mixed bag of weather as it marks the exit of the sweltering summer heat. But in 1986, Mother Nature had destructive plans that no one was prepared for. The Great Michigan Flood of 1986, which rose over the course of three drenching days, September 10-12, became one of the most catastrophic weather events in Southeast Michigan's history, causing widespread devastation.

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This wasn't just a heavy rain either--it was a deluge that carved a new landscape for many Michigan residents, in some cases, completely washing their homes away. The hardest hit regions were Central Lower Michigan and the Thumb Region. The stationary front responsible for the storm pulled in warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico, merging with remnants of a tropical storm system. The result? Torrential rain storms averaged 6 to 12 inches, with some areas reporting up to 14 inches in just 12 hours on September 11.

How the Great Michigan Flood of 1986 Reshaped Shorelines - Devoured Communities

National Weather Service
National Weather ServiceJoseph V Clark & David Kook, NWS WFO White Lake, Michigan

Cities like Saginaw, Bay City, and Midland bore the brunt of the flooding. Vassar, in particular, faced an almost apocalyptic scene with the Cass River rising to an unprecedented 24.82 feet--over 10 feet above flood stage. Downtown Vassar saw businesses and homes submerged, causing significant property damage and hundreds seeking dry land and shelter.

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The human cost was heart-wrenching. At least 10 lives were lost, including tragic incidents like a woman driving into the flooded Cass River and children swept away by currents. The economic impact was staggering, with damage estimated between $400 and $500 million (1986 dollars), which would be closer to $1 billion today. Around $120 million was crop damage, devastating farmers weeks before harvest.

Rivers Hit Record Highs During the Great Michigan Flood of 1986

See How Michigan's Great Flood of 1986 Reshaped Our State
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Several of Michigan's rivers surged over their banks, setting new records. The Tittabawassee River in Midland crested at 33.89 feet, smashing the previous record. The Pine River at Alma and the Cass River at Frankenmuth also experienced record-breaking heights.

Related: Michigan Counties Among Nations Most at Risk For Tornadoes In '24

In the aftermath, 22 counties were declared disaster areas, covering nearly 14,000 square miles and affecting 1.8 million people. The volume of water was so immense that if it had drained into Lake St. Clair, it would have raised the lake's level by 10 feet. Continue to on to see a gallery of pictures, featuring local news coverage of the Great Michigan Flood of 1986.

See How Michigan's Great Flood of 1986 Reshaped Our State

Over a three-day period, September 10-12, 1986, continuous heavy rains caused extensive damage due to flood waters. These stationary rains collapsed homes on the Lake Michigan shore and moved entire neighborhoods off their foundations in the Bay Area. Here's a look at local news coverage during the Great Michigan Flood of 1986.

Gallery Credit: Scott Clow

Blizzard of 1978: When Mother Nature's Fury Shut Down Michigan

The Blizzard of 1978 was an iconic storm system made possible by two converging fronts, one from the Gulf of Mexico, meeting a northern system from Canada creating record snowfall and hurricane-force winds that shutdown Michigan's transportation system, both on the ground and in the air. Here's a look at WOOD TV 8's coverage from January 25th through January 27th, 1978.

Gallery Credit: Scott Clow

Tornados in 2023: States With the Most Property Damage

While states in 'Tornado Alley' may see a higher number of twisters, the number has little to do with total property damage. ConsumerAffairs recently looked at data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Statista to determine how many states tornadoes touched down in each state and compared that to the total estimated property damage in the same time period. Here's a look at Tornadoes in 2023: Ranking the States For Most Property Damage.

Gallery Credit: Scott Clow

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