Freeway floods, power outages show Michigan failing at what matters

Pride precedes fall as weather event shuts down boastful state

“We’re a state that’s on the right side of history,” read pro-Michigan billboards placed in six Southern states.

Maybe Michigan is on the right side of history — that’s an arguable point. But Friday, it was on the wrong side of a flood and a power outage.

The billboards are Michigan’s latest recruiting tool; they’re Pure Michigan ads without the airtime or the Tim Allen voiceovers.

Here’s what they don’t say: Michigan is failing at all the things that matter. We can’t even keep our homes lit or our roads drivable after a thunderstorm.

Friday morning rush hour was a slow-go.

One of the busiest patches of roadway in Michigan, Interstate 75 at Interstate 696 in Oakland County, was closed due to flooding after storms Thursday night.

As WXYZ-TV reported, that wasn’t the only closure in the region. Almost every major freeway in Southeast Michigan was touched by the flooding.

Across the Lower Peninsula, about 412,000 homes and businesses were without power, with 230,000 out in DTE’s turf and 182,000 out in Consumers Energy’s territory. Schools and day care facilities closed unexpectedly, causing parents to call out of work with little notice.

It’s true that this was no thimbleful of rain. Winds were high. Rain was intense. Damages were massive. At least five people died. A lot happened in a short time.

That’s all the more reason Michigan needs to move its power lines underground, to the extent possible. Michigan will not become less stormy, and our storms come in all four seasons. We know this.

That’s unlikely to change. If tree-trimming were the answer, we’d know it by now. The trees aren’t going away until the wind blows them away. So the power lines must go underground. This will cost money and time.

Freeway flooding is a known problem in Metro Detroit, at least since the floods of 2014.

Since then, the Michigan Department of Transportation has spent millions on flood mitigation by upgrading pump stations, upgrading technology, and spending more money clearing drains. Apparently it’s not enough.

Flooded roadways are bad for any type of car, but especially for electric vehicles. EV batteries can’t survive a scratch, in most cases. If Michigan will have 2 million electric vehicles on the road by 2030, as Gov. Gretchen Whitmer wants, it will need a stronger grid and better flood mitigation. Where are the plans for either?

These are serious times, with serious problems. Michigan doesn’t have the time or money to take out ads in growing states to celebrate itself. And what exactly are we celebrating? Our schools are bad, our roads are bad, our grid is bad, and people are moving out.

“The right side of history and the wrong side of the power outage” is not much of a sales pitch.

James David Dickson is managing editor of Michigan Capitol Confidential. Email him at

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.