(The Center Square) – Heavy rains and subsequent dam failures have resulted in massive flooding in Midland County, prompting Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to declare a state of emergency.
More than 10,000 people from 3,500 homes have been evacuated, and the National Guard was deployed to assist in emergency rescue efforts after four to seven inches of rain pounded the area on Sunday and Monday, exacerbated by the collapse of two dams.
“In the next 12 to 15 hours, downtown Midland could be under approximately nine feet of water,” Whitmer said at a Tuesday night press conference. “We are anticipating an historic high water level.”
By Wednesday morning, the waters had yet to crest, or reach its highest event level, and the downtown area already was submerged in many areas. Reports suggest waters might rise as high as 39 feet above normal levels, which estimates say is at least four feet and possibly five feet more than the previous high-water mark of 1986.
“The Tittabawassee River is expected to crest at 30.6 feet by 2 a.m. Wednesday,” according to the Midland County website.
“Flood waters are projected to crest four feet higher than in 1986, which we all thought would be the worst flooding of our lifetimes,” Sen. Jim Stamas, R-Midland, said in a statement.
“Our streets have become bodies of water. This is devastating and horrifying all around,” Rep. Roger Hauck, R-Union City, said in a statement.
“I'm thankful the governor made the right decision to announce a state of emergency, which in this case is absolutely necessary,” Rep. Annette Glenn, R-Midland, said in a statement.
The Tridge, a bridge spanning the convergence of the Chippewa, Pine and Tittabawassee rivers, is a Midland landmark in the park on the western edge of the city's downtown area. The park surrounding the Tridge is home to the starting point of the Rail Trail that runs 30 miles north to Clare, as well as softball diamonds, dog park and Farmers’ Market.
On Tuesday night, Midland residents were posting flood developments on social media.
“Lots of sirens audible from Main Street with police patrolling warning residents to seek shelter,” wrote John Griese on Facebook.
“Huge trees floating down the Chippewa River,” wrote James Russell Inman, a medical doctor who owns a house on the river.
By Wednesday morning, all of the above were submerged as waters crept up to flood the first floors of the Midland County Courthouse.
The governor’s emergency order came as the entire state already was declared in a state of emergency from the coronavirus pandemic.
“Dealing with severe flooding on top of a public health challenge is extremely concerning to area families and to us as elected officials,” Glenn continued. “I can assure families in Bay, Isabella, and Midland counties that Sen. Stamas and Rep. Hauck and I are working together with the governor’s office, the National Guard, and all our city and county leaders to keep everyone safe during this difficult challenge.”