INTRO: Severe cold has broken water pipes all over the state. No city has more infrastructure to manage than Detroit. Mayor Mike Duggan promised improvement within 6 months. Michigan Now’s Chris McCarus finds out what residents need the city to do just so they can get in and out of their houses.
For weeks people have been digging out their cars and trucks. Near Boston-Edison district off of Woodward Avenue, tires turn, clutches burn and sometimes people give up. They’re stuck. Can’t go to work, can’t take kids to school or go to the store. Marilyn Williams has spent nearly all of her 56 years on Taylor Street.
“For real. I ain’t never seen no mess like this before in my life.”
A pipe burst on Second Avenue and created an ice dam. Cars banged their chassis on it for two weeks before the water department turned it off and cleared the ice with a backhoe. At the other end of the street, is a car dealership built in the 1950’s. It became a school bus garage. Then a church rented it. They pass out food there. Turned off the heat but left the water on. Water poured onto the sidewalk. Neighbors asked church officials to turn it off over Christmas.
Since snowplow trucks don’t come a river ran down the block. Ice became a foot thick. Yet a car’s tonnage breaks through. Cars get stuck where driveways meet the street. City water repair crews came. This worker’s voice is muffled from the face mask he wore. The air was 5 degrees.
“We gotta go back. We haven’t broke through it yet. We got a lot of stuff down there. A lot debri.”
“What size pipe is that?”
“How far down does it go”
“No telling. They are all different depths.”
“A minute ago you guys blasted it with something. What was that?”
No response. Nothing happened.
“So now you’re digging just to get the crud out.”
“Yep. Once we clear the box we can turn it off.”
Neighbors again asked the staff at Little Rock Baptist Church to take action. That’s why the repair crew showed up here instead of somewhere else. Two men and a woman removed a metal cap in the asphalt. They poured hot water, pounded and pried for an hour.
“Somebody called it in.”
“Who called it in?”
“The church called it in. We’re not done yet. We gotta come back.”
“Still gotta turn it off.”
“How come you can’t turn it off yet?”
“It’s frozen. Got a lot of crud down there. Asphalt. The top must have been off at one time and all the crud falls in off the street. Our equipment keep shutting down. It don’t like working in this cold weather. We got to go to the garage and get it fixed and we’ll be back out.”
“How many situations do you got like this?”
“We’ll be back,” They said in 30 minutes. It took three days.
Pastor Opelton Parker bought his house a couple years ago for $7,000. He put in wiring, a furnace and lots of insulation. He’s done a lot of shoveling too.
“I never took a trip to Alaska. I always wanted to. But now Alaska has come here. I ain’t gotta go. It looks like Alaska right here in my front yard.”
I asked Pastor Parker how well Mayor Mike Duggan has delivered city services so far.
“When you look at the financial trouble that we have and the fact that we only had a new mayor for a limited time, he just started in January. So he hasn’t been here for more than a month and a half. I think they have responded pretty well. They have come and cleaned out the street. Of course they need to come clean it again.”
This woman was leading a man with a tool box along the sidewalk toward her house on Hazelwood. I followed for a moment.
“My guess is that now people would be worried about their basements flooding.”
“Do you have any situation like that?”
“I don’t know. I gotta get into my house to see. I have a furnace problem.”
“Do you remember when that Doritos truck was stuck on this block on December?”
“It was extremely bad.”
“Have you seen it this bad before?”
“No. I have not seen it this bad before. This is the worst I have ever seen it. But I have to go and let him get inside and fix the furnace.”
She mentioned that 45 cars got stuck on her block because of the broken water pipes.
By this week, icicles began to drip from rooftops onto vinyl siding. Nature is taking pity on repair crews, the new mayor and Detroit’s long time residents.