Clusters of thunderstorms brought historic rains and subsequent flooding to the Houghton-Hancock area on June 17, 2018.
This “Father’s Day Flood” was a classic heavy rain event, which featured a flow of warm, very moist air from the Gulf of Mexico into Upper Michigan ahead of the front. The rain began Friday, June 15 and continued off and on through the rest of the weekend.
The main event occurred in the early hours of Father’s Day as a series of disturbances fired thunderstorms with multiple rounds of heavy rain. Up to seven inches poured down across the area, much of it coming down in just a few hours. Radar maps at the time of the storm showed a bullseye of heavy rain right over the Houghton-Hancock area.
The ensuring flooding devastated area roads. A number of roads in the hilly terrain of the two cities and surrounding communities were rendered impassable as large chunks of pavement were broken up and washed away. The Houghton County Road Commission reported 150 washouts, the creation of 60 sinkholes, and $30 million in damage to the roads across the county.
The deluge taxes aging infrastructure, in some cases sending rocks, mud, and other debris down hillsides into local homes. In the worst cases, some homes were destroyed as boulders crashed into them, allowing floodwaters to pour in.
Officially, 5.96 inches of rain came down at the Houghton County Airport on June 17, 2018. This is the heaviest one-day rainfall on record in the Houghton-Hancock area.