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Homes swallowed by floodwaters in Niles neighborhood

NILES, Mich. -- Crossing into the Niles city limit using Front Street was only possible by boat on Thursday, as families worked to save their flooding homes.

“I just happen to have a boat in the garage, and the time, and thought I’d do something good to help somebody,” said Jay Miller, who was traveling through the neighborhood by boat on Thursday and offering to help anyone in need.

Miller let ABC57’s Taylor Popielarz hop in for a tour once it was clear that nobody needed rescuing.

We floated past a submerged fence, a fire hydrant that was gradually being covered, and one of several homes flooded with feet of freezing water.

“I’ve seen it flood a bit here and there,” said Miller, a lifelong Niles resident. “But this is incredible.”

This flooding was happening about 5 minutes from downtown Niles, where the rising waters were just as damaging.

Niles Mayor Nick Shelton described in a press conference on Thursday how unprecedented this February weather event has been.

Back on Front Street, Miller pointed out a home that had generators and pumps roaring outside it.

“They’re fighting to keep their home right here,” he said. “They’ve been running pumps nonstop.”

Moments later, Jody Purdy stepped out onto her front porch and waved to the boat as it passed.

She and her husband have been working around the clock to keep their home – which her husband grew up in – from falling victim to the flooding.

“My husband will kill himself trying to save this house,” Purdy said. “And we’ve done everything – and we’ve had so many people and family and friends dropping off water, gas, food, coming in with boats and hauling the stuff because we can’t even get to our house without full waders on – this water is freezing cold.”

The damage seemed unthinkable to many in the neighborhood.

And even with people like Miller lending a hand, the uncharted waters have families in Niles on edge.

“Well that’s what you’re supposed to do,” Miller said. “You’re supposed to help people. That’s what Americans do.”

“We had to-go bags sitting by the door – still sitting there now,” Purdy said. “If we have to go, we have to go.”

The city has set up a webpage to help people begin assessing the damage to their property and the cleanup process. You can click here to learn more.

On Friday morning, the Niles-Buchanan YMCA reached out to say they are open and available to the community for showers, basic toiletries, and other forms of assistance for flood victims.

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