Over Father’s Day weekend 2018, a flash flood flooded Upper Michigan with several inches of rain. Houghton County was hit the hardest. Heavy and widespread rains ranging from three to nearly seven inches were recorded, with the heaviest falling between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. Sunday morning. Several houses and businesses were destroyed or suffered significant damage. But few cities have been impacted as significantly as Ripley.
Ripley is home to a hundred people as well as Mount Ripley, Michigan’s oldest ski area. It is rocked by the Keweenaw Waterway, which separates Copper Island – where Ripley is located – from the mainland. The torrential rains caused flooding in Keweenaw that washed away roads and damaged or destroyed properties throughout the city. The rain also triggered a mudslide on Mount Ripley that tore the homes of several people apart, including that of Cynthia Drake.
Drake told weather.com she was initially excited about the arrival of rain in the area. It had been a dry season and the community was hoping for some relief.
“We all needed the rain so when the rain started it was just awesome,” Drake said.
She had planned to sleep in a tent in her backyard that night, but when the rain started, her youngest daughter convinced her to move inside. Neighbors will later find pieces of his tent near the Keweenaw Waterway.
In the middle of the night, her daughter entered her room because she was afraid of the sounds of the storm. They fell back asleep a bit, but the storm grew so strong that they decided to get up and see if any windows needed to be closed. When Drake went downstairs, she was shocked at what she saw.
“I got up and we went to the stairwell, and there was water going up the stairwell,” she said. “Then I looked out the window and saw that my sauna, from my garden, was in front of the house and everything was flooded. On both sides of my house there was water.
Ripley Creek goes through Drake’s house, and also a bit underground, possibly due to missing mining tunnels. So when the mudslide hit, the already swollen underground stream came to the surface.
“When all the debris came out of the mudslide, like the trees and everything that went through, they shattered. [the underground creek] opened in one place, so it kind of geysed out, ”Drake explained.
Drake said his yard looked like a bomb exploded there – and it still is three years later. The city has yet to make the necessary repairs, and unfortunately its home insurance does not cover much. Fortunately, however, the Drake community rushed to her aid and supported her through her difficult times in most extraordinary ways.
When a neighbor learned of what had happened to his house, he immediately enlisted a local sports team to help him move everything out of the flooded areas.
“They just started taking stuff out of my house, knocking it out the windows with shovels and buckets, literally shoveling everything from the first floor and basement,” Drake said. “They saved the house, because if they hadn’t acted so quickly I would have had mold and all kinds of things.”
Other neighbors came to help us over the next few days, many of whom were strangers to Drake. She was in shock for most of that first day after the storm, and seeing what she describes as hundreds of people entering and leaving her house was shocking.
Ultimately, however, she was overwhelmed by the appreciation of her neighbors who did not hesitate to roll up their sleeves and save her house.
“The community reacted before the arrival of national organizations. Everyone just joined in, and it was just like that feeling of, oh, that’s what we can do for each other, you know? It was so amazing. I can’t say enough about the community and the support. I will never forget this feeling of how loving people can be.
According to Drake, even the disaster response teams who came to help commented on the community’s incredible response. It was an amazing human effort that Drake will not soon forget.
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