Roughly 10,000 residents have been evacuated due to the floods, according to the Lansing State Journal. Flood warnings have been issued by the National Weather Service for the Midland County’s Tittabawassee River, one of which is until May 22, 11:52 p.m. The Edenville dam holds back the Tittabawassee River, which the city expected to crest at 30.6 feet by 2 a.m. on May 20; that has now been adjusted to a record level of 35-36 feet, according to the National Weather Service.
“In the next 12-15 hours, downtown Midland could be under approximately nine feet of water,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said during a press briefing.
A flash flood warning was issued by the National Weather Service for East-central Midland County until May 20, 8 a.m. Another river, Rifle River, reached its major flood stage as well, the National Weather Service also reported. Locations affected by the flooding include Midland, Sanford, Edenville, Hope and Averill.
On May 19 at around 8:53 p.m. EST, the Midland County Alert Center announced that the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) had been activated. Whitmer tweeted that she would issue an emergency declaration as well.
In the briefing, Whitmer said the City of Midland and Village of Sanford had been evacuated and the Tittabawassee, Thomas and Saginaw Townships were in the process of being evacuated. “We still need thousands of people to take this action … Please do not hesitate,” she said, urging people to stay with a friend, relative or one of the shelters.
The Edenville Dam Failed First, Then the Sanford Dam Followed
At around noon, both the Edenville and Sanford dams were holding, according to the city’s website. Michigan residents near Sanford and Wixom lakes were told to evacuate around 1:21 p.m. and shelters were set up at Coleman High School, 4951 N. Lewis St. and Meridian Junior High School 3475 N. Meridian Rd.
However, the National Weather Service reported “life-threatening flash flooding” from the failure of the Edenville dam as the result of heavy rains and the swell of the Tittabawassee River around 7:30 p.m. EST on May 19. Then, around an hour later, Midland County reported that the Sanford dam failed at 8:49 p.m. EST.
The National Weather Service issued a flood warning for Rouge, Saginaw, Shiawassee and Tittabawassee Rivers and a flash flood emergency for locations downstream of the Edenville dam.
This is a PARTICULARLY DANGEROUS SITUATION. SEEK HIGHER GROUND NOW! IMMEDIATE EVACUATION for areas downstream from the Edenville Dam along the Tittabawassee River. The nearest downstream town is Sanford Dam…located about 7 miles from the Edenville Dam. Areas downstream from the Edenville Dam along the Tittabawassee River should be prepared for flooding.
AccuWeather meteorologist Jack Boston said, “A very slowly moving storm system and cold front pushing through the Midwest has produced anywhere from 100 to 200 mm (3 to 8 inches) of rainfall in just the past week.”
Unsafe Conditions Are Forcing Residents to Evacuate
Michiganders have posted messages on social media saying they have never seen the roads so badly flooded and are concerned about how many homes could be damaged. Others have expressed frustration that the dam has broken at the same time many are struggling because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Midland County’s Alert Center is advising Michigan residents to check their special map and select the “Dam Failure” layer to see if they live in any of the shaded areas; those who do are being told to evacuate. There is also a potential flood map being circulated by the alert center.
Evacuees are being told to go to Midland High School on 1301 Eastlawn Dr. Midland’s Office of Emergency Management has warned people to “Seek higher ground as far east and west of the Tittabawassee River as possible.”
The Tittabawassee Fire and Rescue crews already had to rescue a driver whose pick up truck was swept away on a flooded roadway, according to WNEM. The crew warned people through Facebook to stay off that road:
It’s not the first time Midland County has experienced a flood; the Great Flood of 1986 uprooted trees, ruined crops, destroyed homes and injured several people, according to Midland Daily News.