Catastrophic flooding in Michigan as dams fail
- Thousands are under evacuation orders in mid-Michigan this morning, a day after two dams failed following heavy rain across the state.
- The Tittabawassee River at Midland, Michigan, is forecast to crest 38 feet at 8 p.m. ET today. The river set a new record this morning, surpassing 33.89 feet, which was the previous record set in 1986.
- The flooding comes during the coronavirus pandemic, forcing officials to juggle two public safety crises at once.
National Guard helping with evacuations around the failed dams
The Michigan National Guard was activated, and has a special unit out of Fort Custer to help with evacuations and emergency operations in the area, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced yesterday after two dams in the area failed.
“Mid-Michigan Medical Center is working on moving up to 150 patients and the Michigan State Police has marine, air and land vehicles at work to help evacuate,” Whitmer said.
The Red Cross is also in the area to assist, Whitmer said.
Michigan officials juggle evacuating thousands from flooding threat and containing coronavirus
About 3,500 homes and 10,000 people have so far been affected by the evacuation notices in mid-Michigan ordered after two dams failed, Mark Bone, chair of the Midland County Board of Commissioners, said he believes.
No deaths or injuries have been reported, he said.
The evacuations come in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. Teams are trying to screen people arriving at the shelters, Bone said, and emergency personnel have plenty of personal protective equipment and are wearing masks.
Masks are available for everyone going into the shelters, he said.
"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," Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said.
"Please, to the best of your ability, continue to wear a face covering when you go to a shelter or go stay with a friend or relative," Whitmer added.
The Michigan Army National Guard is on site, with 100 soldiers doing inspections around the area, Whitmer said.
MidMichigan Medical Center in Midland said it was not evacuating.
"We have been working alongside local agencies, watching closely the rapid changes that have been occurring due to the flooding," Greg Rogers, the president of the medical center, said in a news release. "We have transferred a few patients that were identified by their physician. We have no current plans to evacuate."
The hospital said it has made improvements to protect the hospital since the flood of 1986, which include a FEMA-approved flood wall located on medical center property and generators built above the flood plain.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency for Midland County after two dams failed Tuesday, according to her office.
“If you have not evacuated the area, do so now and get somewhere safe,” Whitmer said in a press release. “This is unlike anything we’ve seen in Midland County. If you have a family member or loved one who lives in another part of the state, go there now. If you don’t, go to one of the shelters that have opened across the county.”
Residents should "seek higher ground" as far east and west of the Tittabawassee River as possible, according to the city of Midland's website.
"In the next 12 to 15 hours, downtown Midland could be under approximately nine feet of water," Whitmer said in a news conference. "We are anticipating a historic high water level."
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