BIG RAPIDS TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WZZM) - A "local state of emergency" is in effect along the Muskegon River south of Big Rapids after flooding caused by ice dams.

"It's devastating," says evacuated resident Warren Klope. "It came up so quick, so fast."

Dozens of residents were evacuated from about 60 homes when the river started backing up Wednesday afternoon.

The problem started after a mid-week thaw sent ice chunks floating downstream. The ice collected on a sandbar and dammed up the water near Rogers Heights.

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"The emergency people came and knocked on the door and told us we had to get out," explains Klope.

"It was hurry-hurry trying to get approximately 30 people evacuated from about 60 homes," says Mecosta-Austin Township Deputy Fire Chief Alan Brennan. "I wouldn't say we saved anybody's life, but there were some elderly people who could not get out or even begin to wade in that water. We had to assist them."

The river is now well over it's banks and may not recede until another warm up melts the ice dam.

"If you broke up the choke point, in the next 60 seconds it's going to fill right back up with ice," says Mecosta County Administrator Paul Bullock. "The only thing that's going to clear this up, long term, is Mother Nature and some warmth."

Evacuated residents are either with relatives or in temporary housing arranged by the Red Cross.

"We moved here 26 or so years ago," says Klope. "We've never had water like this before."

Below is a news release from Mecosta County Emergency Management Coordinator:

The formation of an ice dam on the Muskegon River just upstream from Rogers Heights has resulted in the flooding and evacuation of a number of residences. Ice dams may cause extremely rapid changes in water levels. While further evacuations are unlikely the Mecosta County Emergency Management Department is urging all residents near the river to monitor river levels and be prepared to evacuate to higher ground if necessary.

The Mecosta County Services Building at 14485 Northland Drive, Big Rapids (telephone 231-796-2626) is open with Red Cross personnel on site to assist residents displaced by the flooding.

12 Mile Road between 183rd and 185th Avenues has been closed due to water across the road.

Please remember: Do not drive your vehicle into areas where the water covers the roadway. The water depth may be too great to allow your car to cross safely due to unseen washouts. Vehicles caught in rising water should be abandoned quickly and passengers should move to higher ground.

Flooding that is threatening buildings or roads may be reported to the Mecosta Central Dispatch by dialing 911.