Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued an emergency declaration after the Edenville Dam and Sanford dams failed in Midland County, forcing thousands of residents to immediately evacuate their homes on Tuesday.
Downtown Midland could be under 9 feet of water by Wednesday morning, Gov. Whitmer said during a press conference on Tuesday night following the two collapses. A flash flood emergency is in effect for the areas downstream, which includes Midland City and Freeland, Michigan.
The situation was deemed catastrophic by the National Weather Service (NWS) on Wednesday morning.
“Extremely dangerous flooding is ongoing along the Tittabawassee River in Midland County due to catastrophic failures at the Edenville and Sanford dams,” the NWS wrote. “A Flood Warning is in effect, and anyone near the river should seek higher ground immediately, avoid driving into flood waters, and continue to heed evacuation orders given by local authorities. Life-threatening flooding continues today.”
The Edenville Dam is located about 30 miles inland from the Saginaw Bay of Lake Huron. Over 80,000 people live in Midland County.
The Tittabawassee River at Midland, Michigan, surpassed its record flood stage of 33.9 feet, which was established during flooding in 1986, on Wednesday morning, and waters were continuing to rise with an expected crest of 38 feet by Wednesday night. In comparison, flood stage is 24 feet and major flooding occurs when waters rise to 28 feet, according to the National Weather Service.
According to the Midland County Roads Commission, every bridge crossing the Tittabawassee River is closed as of 10 a.m., local time, on Wednesday.
“Many roads are under water,” the MCRC said on Twitter. “Please DO NOT attempt to use roadways that are under water.”
Midland County emergency management told people in Midland City, Michigan, who are located west of Eastman and south of US 10, to evacuate immediately on Tuesday afternoon, according to NBC25.
A slow-moving storm doused Michigan with heavy rains over the period of several days, triggering fear of imminent dam failure and flood warnings across the state.
At least two rivers in mid-Michigan, the Tittabawassee River in Midland and the Rifle River near Sterling, reached their major flood stage on Tuesday afternoon, sending dams past their limits.
The Tittabawassee Fire and Rescue rescued the driver of a pickup truck after the vehicle was swept away while trying to drive on a flooded roadway on Tuesday, according to WNEM.
“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 from the western Great Lakes through northern Indiana and into southern Missouri,” AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Jack Boston said.
Edenville Township residents along Sanford and Wixom lakes northwest of Midland were urged to evacuate their homes prior to the Edenville Dam burst. They were advised to make arrangements to stay elsewhere through Wednesday. Shelters have been set up at schools in the area.
Officials in Arenac County and Gladwin County, Michigan, also urged residents to evacuate ahead of the failure due to the possible dam breach from flash flooding along the Tittabawassee and Cedar rivers.