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Heavy Michigan rains close GM tech center, affect other automakers

DETROIT (Reuters) - Heavy rains in southeast Michigan hit the operations of U.S. automakers in the region, including forcing the closure of General Motors Co's technical center outside Detroit.

Detroit city officials said Monday night's heavy rainfall was the most rain the city had seen in almost nine decades. It caused flooding, power losses and road closures, including parts of several major highways.

"In the short amount of time it came down ... it did a lot of shutdown to the whole metro area," said Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, according to a video clip on WXYZ Detroit.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said that the volume of rain - over 5 inches in some areas - overwhelmed sewer systems, causing widespread flooding.

"As of Tuesday morning, August 12, water levels were subsiding and most road flooding had receded," he said in a statement on Facebook.

The flooding hit a city already strained to meet its public safety needs. The lack of police and fire equipment has been a significant factor in Detroit's bankruptcy proceedings, and cutbacks to personnel have contributed to making response times to emergency incidents among the worst in the nation, according to filings in Detroit's bankruptcy proceeding.

A hearing before a federal judge is scheduled to begin on Aug. 21, at which Detroit is expected to argue that its plan to adjust $18 billion of debt is feasible and it is prepared to exit the biggest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history. [ID:nL2N0QE28A]

Disruption to automakers saw GM's technical center in Warren, Michigan, closed after flooding caused loss of power in parts of the campus, a spokeswoman said. GM and contractors employ about 19,000 people there in various functions, including research and development, design, engineering, information technology and customer satisfaction.

The employees were told to work from home or other remote locations while the No. 1 U.S. automaker worked to get the technical center reopened, the spokeswoman said. No timetable was available on when that would be.

GM said there had been no impact on any of its plants in the region.

Ford Motor Co said some plant operations were affected Monday night, including production slowdowns at the Dearborn, Michigan, truck and stamping plants; an assembly plant in Wayne, Michigan; the Sterling, Michigan, axle and transmission plants; and a stamping plant in Woodhaven, Michigan.

Additionally, a spokeswoman said the No. 2 U.S. automaker's Chicago and Kentucky assembly plants experienced some production interruptions due to flooding at Michigan-based suppliers, but all Ford plants were operating on normal schedules.

Chrysler Group, a unit of Italy's Fiat, said four of its plants in Michigan had been affected by flooding. The unit said it also had higher-than-normal worker absenteeism and slowed deliveries due to road closures.

The plants affected included assembly plants in Detroit and Sterling Heights, Michigan, as well as stamping plants in Sterling Heights and Warren. Production was slowed at the plants, but the company expects production on the second shifts at all the plants to resume at normal times.

(Reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit, additional reporting by Megan Davies in Detroit; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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