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Berrien County flood damage estimated at $6+ million

BERRIEN COUNTY, Mich. -- Several hundred properties damaged. Millions of dollars in repairs of public infrastructure. Close to 30 people still living in shelters.

Those are some of the figures coming out of Berrien County as local officials continue assessing the damage caused by last week’s flooding.

In a press conference at the Berrien County Conference Center Thursday afternoon, those leading the recovery process estimated there is between $3.5 and $3.6 million in damage done to private properties and between $3 and $4 million in damage to public infrastructure.

“To my knowledge, this is the most serious flooding issue that Berrien County has ever experienced,” said Robert Boyce, the chief deputy with the Berrien County Sheriff’s Office.

As of Thursday, it was determined that 306 properties were ‘touched’ by the floodwaters – 94 were ‘affected’ (the lowest level of damage); 124 received ‘minor’ damage; 74 received ‘major’ damage (meaning months of repairs); and 6 properties were completely destroyed.

Officials said those numbers will likely grow because there are at least another 50 properties that have not be assessed yet because they are not yet accessible.

The Red Cross reported 27 people returned to their homes on Thursday, while close to 30 more remained in shelters.

Supplies like trash bags, hand sanitizer and cleanup kits continue to be handed out.

Berrien County Health and Human Services Director Kathy Valdes said, as of Thursday afternoon, her office had received 64 requests for assistance of some kind.

“We’ve had requests for help with relocating,” she said. “We’ve have energy requests, food benefit requests…I just want to emphasize again that if you have a need, please call 2-1-1.”

United Way said it’s focusing on giving out donated goods, organizing volunteers, and establishing long term financial assistance plans with victims.

Meals, drinks, and flood kits have been given out by The Salvation Army.

According to the Berrien County Health Department, teams have identified 112 homes in the county that could have an issue with well water because of the flooding.

“The floodwaters have been contaminated with bacteria, virus, all sorts of things that have happened during the flood,” said health officer Nicki Britten. “And items that have been in contact with floodwaters should be considered contaminated as well. So as folks are cleaning up, it’s important to use some protective gear such as rubber gloves, boots – in some instances it might be appropriate to wear a mask if there’s suspicion of mold.”

The officials said the city of Niles, north Berrien Springs, north of Buchanan, Batchlor Island, just south of St. Joe, and the area of Derfla and Linden Drive were some of the hardest hit areas.

For those now looking for housing, the county said it is reaching out to local housing authorities, apartment complexes, and landlords to see if anyone has room for the hardest hit flood victims.

As for animals, Boyce said 60 pets had been taken in by animal control. On Thursday afternoon, 25 of them had been returned to their owners.

To learn more about who to contact for help, what services are available, and how the recovery process is going, check out the following websites:

Berrien County’s flood information site (includes health department information, damage reporting tools, and more)

United Way of Southwest Michigan’s Disaster Relief Effort

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