About 11,000 people in central Michigan were told to evacuate their homes after rapidly rising water overwhelmed dams, creating what the National Weather Service called a “life-threatening situation.”
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said the destruction in Midland County caused by the failures of the Edenville and Sanford dams was “devastating,” and waters were expected to continue to rise until 8 p.m. Wednesday.
At 5:30 a.m., the Tittabawassee River had broken the record of 33.9 feet set during a 500-year flood event in 1986. At 12:45 p.m. on Wednesday, the river level was 35.013 feet and rising.
But in a positive development, the city of Midland announced the river crested on Wednesday afternoon at 35.05 feet — under the predicted forecast of 38 feet and about three hours earlier than predicted.
The US Geological Survey said it was installing a temporary stream gage to the river because the one there only has an operating limit that is 36.5 feet.
Midland City Manager Brad Kaye said officials are “cautiously optimistic” that water will begin to recede after an early peak, though it may take days before the water is back to more normal levels.
“That’s great news for the county, certainly for the city, and the residents and business owners that are within the affected areas,” Kaye said. “But there are some cautions to that.”
He warned that authorities will still have to monitor any possible changes to the Sanford Dam, which has not completely failed yet. Kay emphasized that the situation was not over yet.
“The negative part of this, this came up quickly, but it’s not going to go away quickly,” Kaye said.
The governor recognized that traveling and staying in a shelter was not ideal as the state continued to try to slow the spread of coronavirus. “This is almost unthinkable in the midst of a global pandemic. Continue to wear a face covering if you are going to a shelter. Please try to observe social distancing. I know it’s going to be hard at a shelter, but please try,” she said.
Kaye said some people who had evacuated to shelters Tuesday night slept in their cars in the parking lots.
“It’s hard to believe that we’re in the midst of a 100-year crisis — a global pandemic — and a flooding event that looks to be the worst in 500 years,” Whitmer said Wednesday.
No fatalities or significant injuries have been reported, according to a statement from the City of Midland, and a “10,000 person evacuation has gone as well as something like this can go,” the governor said.
But some residents had lost power, the Grace A. Dow Memorial Library had taken on water, many roads were flooded and some sewer services had been affected, according to the city.
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Written By: Tommy Lightfoot Garrett
Photographs are Courtesy: AP
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