Flooding in Michigan Forces Thousands to Evacuate

  • No fatalities or injuries have been reported so far, but some sewer services have been affected, and many roads had been flooded.
  • The evacuated residents have been advised to take precautionary measures so as to curb the spread of the virus.
  • According to the National Inventory of Dams, both Sanford and Edenville dams were rated high hazards in 2018.

Around 11,000 residents in central Michigan have been evacuated after two dams collapsed causing floods in communities. The evacuation process was, however, complicated by the current coronavirus pandemic. The rapidly rising waters overwhelmed the Edenville and Sanford dams.

Edenville Dam is a damaged earthen embankment dam at the confluence of the Tittabawassee River and its tributary the Tobacco River in Mid Michigan, United States, forming Wixom Lake. In May 2020, following heavy rains, the Edenville Dam breached and the Sanford Dam downstream overflowed, which caused major flooding in Midland County, including the city of Midland.

No fatalities or injuries have been reported so far, but some sewer services have been affected, and many roads had been flooded. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer said that the damage caused by the Edenvile and Sanford dams was devastating, adding that the situation has been worsened by the global coronavirus pandemic.

The governor revealed that the state will investigate the operators of the two dams. “I think like everyone, it was hard to believe we’re in the midst of a 100-year crisis, a global pandemic, and we’re also dealing with a flooding event that looks to be the worst in 500 years,” Whitmer added.

The evacuated residents have been advised to take precautionary measures so as to curb the spread of the virus. “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,” Whitmer said.

“So 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,” she added. Michigan has been a hotspot for COVID-19, and had been on a stay-at-home order. Michigan has reported more than 52,000 cases of coronavirus with 5,000 deaths. Most schools have been converted into shelters with social distance guidelines in place.

Sanford Lake is a man-made reservoir located in Midland County, Michigan. It was formed by the damming of the Tittabawassee River near the town of Sanford, Michigan. In May 2020, the Sanford Dam, as well as the Edenville Dam to the north, failed following heavy rains. The resulting flooding threatened downtown Midland and surrounding areas.

In a tweet, President Donald Trump urged residents to stay safe, and to listen to local officials. He added that he was in support of the evacuation. The US Geological Survey had said that it was installing a temporary stream gage to the Tittabawassee River because the one it has operates at a limit of 36.5 feet. The predicted forecast was at 38 feet.

On Tuesday, the governor declared a state of emergency, and called for help from the federal government.  She called upon residents threatened by the floods to find secure places for shelter. Emergency workers were forced to go door to door, warning residents living near Edenville Dam of the rising waters, and urging them to evacuate.

According to the National Inventory of Dams, both Sanford and Edenville dams were rated high hazards in 2018. Edenville dam was built in 1924, and has a hydropower project which the federal regulators had rejected, claiming that it was vulnerable to flooding. An order from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in 2017 read:

“Given Edenville dam’s high hazard potential rating, the potential loss of life and destruction of property and infrastructure is grave should the project not be maintained and operated appropriately, with consequences that could certainly affect the village of Sanford, Northwood University, city of Midland, Michigan, and other areas downstream.”

Edenville dam has been under federal scrutiny since 1999.

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Juliet Norah

I am a freelance journalist is passionate about news. I derive pleasure in informing people about the happenings in the world

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