Record rainfall in Michigan disrupts Detroit 3 operations

About 4.5 inches fell in metro Detroit on Monday, and roadways throughout the region remain flooded today.

Photo credit: TOM WOROBEC
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Southeast Michigan experienced record rainfall Monday, disrupting operations at Detroit 3 production and technical facilities.

Rainfall began about 11 a.m. Monday and continued heavily through the evening, amounting to as much as 4.57 inches, according to National Weather Service reports -- making it the second-heaviest rainfall in a day since records have been kept. The weather caused closures or slowdowns at Ford Motor Co., General Motors and Chrysler Group plants and tech centers.

Roads were in poor condition, with sections of major highways in the Detroit area closed due to flooding, causing long detours for commuters.

Several Detroit area highways remained closed this evening, continuing to wreak havoc on rush-hour commuters and commercial traffic. 

GM’s Technical Center in suburban Detroit was closed earlier today because of road conditions and power issues, spokeswoman Katie McBride said. She added that the closure affects 19,000 employees and engineers stationed on that campus.

No other GM facilities were affected by the weather, the automaker said.

McBride said in a later statement that some employees returned to the Tech Center for the second shift today. She added that other buildings will return to operations based on the extent of repairs needed.

"Priority is being placed on operations that directly impact customers, such as call centers, OnStar and the IT data center and ensuring safe operations for all," she said in the later statement.

Chrysler issues

Chrysler spokeswoman Jodi Tinson said in an e-mail that four of the automaker’s plants -- Jefferson North Assembly, Sterling Heights Assembly, Sterling Stamping and Warren Stamping, all in suburban Detroit -- experienced delays from weather due to road closures, flooding in the facilities and slow deliveries.

Jefferson North, Sterling Stamping and Warren Stamping were running at a slow rate, Tinson said in the statement, and Sterling Heights Assembly released employees this morning after letting second-shift employees go home early Monday night at about 9.

Operations were expected to return to normal later today.

"Employees on the second shift at all plants are expected to report at their normal times," Tinson said in a statement this afternoon.

Rising water stranded a car carrier loaded with Chrysler 200 sedans on Mound Road near 1-696 in Warren, Mich., which was hit hard by heavy rainfall. The intersection is several miles from Chrysler's Sterling Heights assembly plant where the 200 is built. The lower deck of the carrier was nearly submerged.

An image tweeted by the Michigan Department of Transportation today shows a sinkhole along I-75 just north of Detroit.

Photo credit: Twitter

All Ford facilities were running on normal production schedules today, spokeswoman Kristina Adamski said in an e-mailed statement, however, there were production slowdowns Monday night.

Suburban Detroit plants Dearborn Truck, Dearborn Stamping, Michigan Assembly, Sterling Axle, Van Dyke Transmission and Woodhaven Stamping all experienced delays from the storm. Ford Chicago Assembly and Kentucky Truck also were disrupted because of flooding at suppliers in southeast Michigan.

Supplier impact

Most Detroit area suppliers contacted today said they were operating.

Detroit Manufacturing Systems suffered from a shortage of first shirt workers this morning, but was able to operate at close to full production, the company said in a statement. The joint venture between Ford Motor Co. and the Rush Group had no materials delays or production impact.

Rush Group's trucking affiliate missed delivery deadlines due to road closures.

"We've been slowed down today because of the state of our region's roads, but so has everybody else," Rush Trucking CEO Scott Reed said in an e-mailed statement. "Our customers have been very understanding because they recognize the realities of what happened last night.

"When it's a snowstorm, people might still hope and expect that you get through on schedule, but when freeways are flooded and closed then everybody accepts the situation and does the best they can."​

Rain is expected in the area again today, according to the National Weather Service, though amounting to just a tenth to a quarter of an inch.

For more local coverage from Crain's Detroit Business, an affiliate of Automotive Newsclick here.

Dustin Walsh of Crain's Detroit Business contributed to this report.

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