County administrator McAvoy looks back, and forward, on flood recovery process

Like many people in Isabella County, Margaret McAvoy spent the evening of June 22 listening to the rain pounding against the windows of her home. 

By 9 a.m. the following morning, McAvoy had been alerted about reports of flooding and reported for duty at the Isabella County Emergency Operations Center. McAvoy is the administrative controller for Isabella County, though she served as the public relations officer for the Emergency Operations Center throughout the aftermath of the June 23 storm.

For the first two weeks after the flooding, the operations center was fully staffed at all hours of the day. When operating at full capacity, the center had a staff of about 30 people working 24/7 on flood recovery efforts. 

"It's not like you're here occasionally, giving some directions and then leaving," McAvoy said. "It's not a pristine relationship. We have to be all-in."

Now weeks after the storm, the main goal of the Emergency Operations Center is to work with FEMA. Teams from that organization have complete a second round of damage assessments of Isabella, Midland, Bay and Saginaw counties. FEMA's goal is to verify and record the more than $87 million in damage reported in initial emergency management estimates. 

FEMA teams visited Isabella County on July 6. After FEMA completes its assessments, it will take up to 30 days to review the data and decide whether they will ask Gov. Rick Snyder to push for a presidential declaration of emergency. 

"One of our major duties is making sure that we are representing the damage done to our residents and our communities in the most accurate way possible," McAvoy said. "We want to make sure that we provide all the data to the governor, FEMA, and the White House that they need to make a decision."

Very few injuries were reported during the storm, and none were life-threatening. McAvoy recalls a single case of a man who was electrocuted while trying to clear out a flooded basement, due to a plugged-in portable heater that had been submerged. The man has since made a full recovery. Other minor injuries resulted from traffic accidents that occurred when road conditions were bad. 

"As far as public safety and the safety of the general population goes, we have been very lucky to have a disaster of this magnitude and not have those loss-of-life situations," McAvoy said. 

McAvoy has served as Isabella County Administrator for four years. Before coming to Isabella County, she was the administrator of Shiawassee County for more than 10 years. McAvoy considers the recent flooding to be the worst disaster that she has dealt with in her career.

"Some time in the future, when I sit and reflect on my career, this will be in the top five or ten major events in my career as a public official," McAvoy said.