100-year-old Michigan woman found dead in flooded basement

Cars are stranded along a flooded stretch of I-696 at the Warren, Mich., city limits Tuesday morning, Aug. 12, 2014.

David Coates, AP

WARREN, Mich. - A 100-year-old women was found dead Tuesday in her flooded basement, a day after heavy rain swamped much of the Detroit area and left motorists stranded on waterlogged streets, CBS affiliate WWJ reported.

Authorities said Julia Sarno apparently drowned after either suffering a heart attack or falling as she was checking water in the basement of her home in Warren.

Her daughter, who is 72 years old, discovered her mother's floating body Tuesday morning, according to Warren Mayor Jim Fouts.

The National Weather Service said 5.2 inches of rain fell Monday in Warren, flooding area streets and freeways. Motorists who got stuck on flooded roads ditched their vehicles in search of higher ground while others stayed put, even spending the night in their cars.

With tears in her eyes, Anna Stella called Sarno a wonderful neighbor who seemed much younger than her years.

"As a neighbor she was great, constantly saying 'hi' ... and every Christmas I would have a Christmas card from her and for every holiday she would call me and say 'hi,'" Stella said.

Another neighbor, Matt Prisden, said he was saddened and angry, saying the city should have been ready for the storm.

"They should have had the sewer system better prepared, the city should have been better prepared for the storm, but they were not prepared at all," he said.

Neighbor Diana Sarver said Sarno's death is a shame.

"It's too bad and it can happen to anybody, you know, I was down there wading in ankle-deep water, and I didn't think about it, I could have been electrocuted or something. It never really dawned on me," she said.

It was the third flooding-related death reported in metro Detroit.

During Monday night's downpour in Warren, a 31-year-old woman was pulled unconscious from her car, which was filling up with water. It was later determined that she died of a seizure, authorities said.

In Oak Park, a 68-year old Warren man died while trying to push his van out of floodwaters. The man, who suffered a heart attack, was found in the water and taken to Beaumont Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, officials said.

Mayor Fouts, who has declared an official state of emergency in the city, said thousands of Warren residents have flooded basements and the General Motors Tech Center was forced to close. Warren City Hall and the police department were flooded with 6 feet of water.

The mayor said has called on the National Guard for assistance and asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency for funds to assist homeowners.