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Flooding persists along swollen rivers in western Michigan, eases in some other parts of state

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EVART, Michigan — Authorities warned residents of Osceola and Newaygo counties to be vigilant Wednesday as the Muskegon River reached what forecasters predicted would be its peak overflow, though floodwaters were easing in other sections of Michigan.

Flooding was most severe around Evart, where the Muskegon was at 15.9 feet at midafternoon, well above the previous record of 15 feet set in March 1989 and its 12-foot flood stage, the National Weather Service said. The agency predicted it would recede steadily and drop from major to moderate flood level by Saturday afternoon.

"Many secondary roads are still under water," the weather service office in Grand Rapids said in a statement. "Roadway repairs are ongoing. Small creeks and streams have peaked and are beginning a slow fall."

Mark Watkins, emergency program director for Osceola County, said it wasn't clear how many residences had been swamped.

"There's so many of them, we're trying to keep track," Watkins told MLive.com. "As an estimation, back in 2011 when we had 12.5 feet, we had 140 homes flooded."

PHOTO: The area off Maple Island Avenue near North Bayne Road is flooded on Tuesday, April 15, 2014, in Muskegon, Mich. (AP Photo/The Muskegon Chronicle, Madelyn Hastings)
The area off Maple Island Avenue near North Bayne Road is flooded on Tuesday, April 15, 2014, in Muskegon, Mich. (AP Photo/The Muskegon Chronicle, Madelyn Hastings)

Spring flooding is nothing new along the river, but this year's heavy snowpack made it worse, he said.

"The river is out of its bank, and it's going where it wants to," Watkins said. "People need to be mindful of the river and where it rises. Make sure you monitor warning channels and monitor the river closely."

The Muskegon was around 12.4 feet near the Croton Dam, about 35 miles north of Grand Rapids. That's more than 3 feet above flood stage but just below the major flood designation.

Meanwhile, the Tittabawassee River dropped to 25.7 feet Wednesday afternoon after cresting at nearly 28.3 feet the previous day. The weather service predicted it would hit minor flood stage late Thursday.

Roger Garner, Midland County emergency services coordinator, said the river could be back down to its normal level for this time of year — 12 to 15 feet — by early May. "Assuming we don't get a bunch of rain," he told the Midland Daily News.

The weather service said moderate flooding persisted on the Pere Marquette River near Scottville. Minor flooding was reported on the White River above Whitehall, the Chippewa River below Mount Pleasant, the Saginaw River at Saginaw, and the Rifle River near Sterling.

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PHOTO: A barn in the area off Maple Island Avenue near North Bayne Road in Twin Lake is closed due to flooding on Tuesday, April 15, 2014, in Muskegon, Mich. (AP Photo/The Muskegon Chronicle, Madelyn Hastings)
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