Fresh asphalt over a pot hole on Lake Lansing Road in Meridian Township.
MERIDIAN TOWNSHIP - Traveling in Meridian Township has been a trying experience over the latter half of February.
A flash thaw and heavy rain wrecked road surfaces and caused flooding over vital Meridian road ways.
Commuters on Friday of last week were especially effected by the build up of traffic along detour routes.
Though stop and go traffic isn’t necessarily good for a car, those Meridian residents who have had their cars damaged by pot holes and flooding would be happy to have only worried about the traffic conditions.
The Okemos Road and Grand River Avenue intersection in particular water logged many over confident drivers.
Cracked rims, flattened tires, and broken suspensions plagued drivers who were unfortunate enough to have enter one of Meridian’s many potholes.
The issues coupled together have kept local auto body shops extremely busy.
Tom Vlassis, who is a service advisor at Graff Chevrolet Okemos’ Service Center has noticed the uptick in pot hole related damages.
“Ten fold, yes, ten fold,” Mr. Vlassis said in a rueful way. Ravine like cracks and deep punctures into the asphalt have kept the auto shops on their toes.
“A lot of tires are blown out, a lot of cars with multiple tires blown out. Rim damage left and right and I’ve seen ball joints come apart. A lot of suspension damage.”
And though he appreciates being busy Mr. Vlassis suffers from the poor roads as well and knows just how costly one pothole incident can be.
“Tires aren’t cheap, wheels aren’t cheap. If you go out and blow out a tire and bend a rim you're easily looking at five to six hundred minimum.”
Handing out that many Benjamin’s over a pothole is enough to dampen anyone’s weekend, and that’s just the low end of a potential payout.
When asked about the more costly damage Mr. Vlassis explained just how vicious a pothole could be.
“I have seen a car come in with two left side wheels, that were flat, and had the rims bent, and the side curtain airbags had deployed. It hit that hard. That was easily a good two thousand dollars there. That was an insurance claim.”
As the amount of damaged cars increases, car insurance companies get more in touch with pothole mania in Michigan.
Most insurance companies handle pothole claims as if they were collision claims, though it does depend on company and the quality you have.
Unfortunately for those looking to claim damage with insurance it will likely mean their rate will rise.
Many times vehicle owner’s will simply choose to pay out of pocket and be done with the ordeal.
“Well, most of them are right around the five to six hundred dollar range and most people’s deductible’s are right around five hundred dollars. So they don’t want to claim it on insurance, so most of it’s going out of pocket.”
A pot hole can put a hole in your wallet but water damage to a vehicle can flood you with debt.
Graff Chevrolet has also handled flooded cars.
Mr. Vlassis know his flood damage too, “Depends on how much waters in there, how deep you go, how long you try to restart it.”
Aside from the extent of the damage to the car, insurance companies also eye driver recklessness.
When car insurance companies examine claims they factor in whether or not signage was up notifying that the road was flooded and had been closed.
“If you go through a puddle and it’s not marked as road closed you don’t really know how bad it is, and insurance tends to pay for that. But like on Grand River you had the sign saying road closed but people still tried to drive through that. Then you have a hard time making a claim because why were you in the water with the road closed sign?”
As car insurance companies decide whether to raise rates for poor decisions the Meridian Police Department has abstained from penalizing drivers who ignored road closed signs.
Captain Greg Frenger of the Meridian Police Department said, “I don’t believe we wrote any tickets, to any of the vehicles that were swamped. Because, first off, we recognize that they’re probably going to pay quite a bill to either replace or repair their vehicle depending on the situation.”
For those wondering why the police weren’t more active in making barricades for the flooded areas Capt. Frenger retorted, “We do the best we can. We don't carry road signs. The State Highway Department gets very upset and the Road Commission, if we move any of their signage without their permission.”
As the waters recede this flood will stay in the minds of some Meridian residents for longer than others.
Auto shops will not have deal with water damaged vehicles again for some time but there is no relief in sight for the pot hole related damage they have to keep up with.
Ingham County Road Commission workers have been hot patching holes but that offers only a temporary solution.
Drier more consistently warm weather will be needed for major road work to begin.