MIDLAND CO. Mich. - Two catastrophic dam failures along a mid-Michigan river have forced thousands to evacuate and threatened the region with massive flooding, including the city of Midland which may be under nine feet of water by Wednesday.
The estimation came from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer who during another press conference late Tuesday when she announced a state of emergency for Midland County. The governor urged residents threatened by the flooding - around 10,000 people - to find shelter or stay with a friend.
The damn failures happened along the Tittabawassee River and followed days of heavy rainfall across the region. One failure happened at the Edenville Dam, about 140 miles north of Detroit, and the other at the Sanford Damn, about seven miles further downriver.
"We are anticipating a historic high water level," Whitmer said. "If you are in one of these areas right now, please, evacuate."
As of her press conference last night, the city of Midland, and the villages of Sanford and Dow Chemical had been evacuated. The state was also in the process of helping residents leave Tittabawassee Township, Thomas Township, and Saginaw Township.
In response to the coming floodwaters, several shelters in high schools and family centers were opened up across the region. As people congregated, the governor urged them to do their best to avoid spreading COVID-19 by wearing face masks and observing social distancing.
Several first responders have been activated to help provide assistance to feeling families. That includes the National Guard,125 Infantry, and the Red Cross. The 51st Civil Support Team has also been requested to support Dow Chemical. Michigan State Police have also authorized air, land, and marine vehicles to help.
Whitmer shrugged off immediate concerns of the state's financial situation as linked to the COVID-19 polices, saying the crisis "demands that we take action" and officials couldn't stop to weigh the costs immediately.
"We're going to do the right thing in the midst of the crisis and we're gonna help people get out," she said. "There's no doubt the stressors that we are under come with a cost. We will work through what that is, but right now we are in the midst of trying to save as many lives as we can and get people out."
Several records indicate that the Edenville Dam, which is owned by Boyce Hydro Power LLC, had been cited several times for failing to issue repairs to the dam. Records show the largest concern to regulators was the dam didn't have enough spillway capacity to ensure the dam would not fail if water levels increased and flood potential grew.
After several violations and years of cited problems with the infrastructure, the company agreed to sell the dam in January.