City of Niles says 50 buildings flooded, St. Joseph River starts to recede

City of Niles says 50 buildings flooded, St. Joseph River starts to recede. // WSBT 22

The St. Joseph River in Niles is finally starting to recede. It crested at an historic level of 17.3 feet.

Many buildings are still in standing water. The City of Niles has identified 50 different buildings to be flooded.

Parkview Apartments did not take on enough water to be evacuated, but Thursday many residents are wishing they had had more information.

The St. Joseph River has become one with downtown Niles and not everyone saw it coming.

“I had no idea it was this bad and realized my car was under water,” said Teasia Shisler, lives at Parkview Apartments on 2nd Street.

She can't get to her things and her car is still in the parking lot

Some are stuck in their apartments. Others improvised a way out.

Thursday morning, Niles Fire Chief Larry Lamb stopped by to make sure everyone was ok.

He says he recommended to the property owner Wednesday that people leave, but there wasn't enough risk to force an evacuation.

He says it was the property owner's responsibility to share that message, but everyone WSBT 22 talked to heard nothing.

Niles Mayor Nick Shelton says the city sent out its first text alert Tuesday afternoon and city leaders did everything they could under unprecedented circumstances.

"The city has worked hard to ensure that information has been provided as often and as accurately as possible,” said Shelton.

The full extent of the flood damage is still unclear, until the water makes its way back.

The city created a website with resources for people as they begin cleanup.

It could be the middle of next week before water drops below major flood level.

Along 2nd Street in front of the Dial-A-Ride building which is the public transportation in Niles is one of 50 buildings in the city flooded.

But by the time the river crested Thursday morning, it was two feet higher than the city expected-- a record breaking 17.3 feet.

The mayor says people have been asking why more sandbags like this weren't placed in other parts of the city closer to the river.

He said back during the big floods in the 1980's the city learned when water levels get this high they can actually make things worse.

"City leaders learned that sandbags are not always an effective measure in the event of flooding because water seeps through the bags and finer materials tend to leak through the seams,” said Mayor Nick Shelton, Niles.

WSBT 22 asked city leaders why a state of emergency was not declared here like in other parts of our area.

They said here in Michigan a city can't declare one unless all city resources have been used up.

The city administrator says the Niles might have to declare one in the next couple of days if the cleanup project gets too big to handle.

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