Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer late Tuesday declared a state of emergency for Midland County and urged residents threatened by the flooding to evacuate the area as 2 dams were breached in Midland County.
“If you have not evacuated the area, do so now and get somewhere safe,” Whitmer said. “This is unlike anything we’ve seen in Midland County.”
The governor said downtown Midland could be “under approximately 9 feet of water” by morning. Residents were told they must evacuate as soon as possible.
“We are anticipating a historic high of water level,” she said. “To go through this in the midst of a global pandemic is almost unthinkable.”
Rapidly rising water overtook dams and forced the evacuation of about 10,000 people in central Michigan, where the governor said one downtown could be “under approximately 9 feet of water” by Wednesday.
For the second time in less than 24 hours, families living along the Tittabawassee River and connected lakes in Midland County were ordered to leave home.
“Record flooding likely along the Tittabawassee River from Edenville down to Midland,” the National Weather Service said on Twitter.
The National Weather Service on Tuesday evening urged anyone near the river to seek higher ground following “castastrophic dam failures” at the Edenville Dam, about 140 miles (225.31 kilometers) north of Detroit, and the Sanford Dam, about seven miles (11.26 kilometers) downriver.
Both the Sanford and Edenville dams were breached. Video taken from the air captured the breach at the Edenville dam, which showed water pouring out from Wixom Lake. The National Guard has been activated and on-site, with 100 soldiers ready and doing inspections.
Residents of the two mid-Michigan communities were urged not to call 911 unless they were unable to evacuate. They were instructed to use Saginaw Road to travel east and west, as U.S. 10 is closed due to flooding, Midland County Central Dispatch said. More than 50 roads closed because of the rising waters.
Shelters were set up for evacuating residents at sites in Midland County:
- Midland High School at 1301 Eastlawn
- Meridian Junior High School at 3475 N. Meridian Road
- Bullock Creek High School at 1420 S. Badour
- West Midland Family Center at 4011 W. Isabella
“To go through this in the midst of a global pandemic is almost unthinkable. But we are here and to the best of our ability, we are going to navigate this together,” the governor said during a press conference at the state emergency operations center in Lansing. She urged evacuees to wear face coverings and practice social distancing, even in shelters.
With the dam failures, “we are looking at flood heights that are approximately 4.5 to 5 feet higher than the 1986 flood that we had, which is the highest we have ever had in the city of Midland,” Kaye said at a press conference shortly before Whitmer’s address.
“The consequence of living in a river valley, of course, is that we have to deal with river floods at times. This, however, is something that would be unprecedented. Whereas the 1986 flood … was a 100-year flood, what we are looking is an event that is the equivalent of a 500-year flood. So something that is extremely rare, it’s extremely catastrophic and quite dangerous.”