Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on May 19 declared a state of emergency in Midland County after the Edenville and Sanford Dams on the Tittabawassee River breached following several days of heavy that produced flooding and put pressure on dams.
People living along the two mid-Michigan lakes and parts of the river were evacuated and Whitmer urged those who had not yet left the area to do so immediately.
“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. I want to thank the emergency responders, Michigan National Guard members, and the Michigan State Police on the ground helping residents evacuate. Stay safe, and take care of each other,” Whitmer said in a prepared statement.
Midland-area schools were opened for evacuees and more than 50 roads have been closed. The evacuations in Michigan followed days of heavy rains in parts of the Midwest that also brought flooding to Chicago and other parts of Illinois, as well as Ohio and other states.
“We were laying in bed when I heard sirens,” Jon St. Croix told the Midland Daily News. “A fire truck was driving around, broadcasting that (we needed) to evacuate. It’s a scary thing — you’re sleeping and awake to sirens.”
St. Croix, 62, his wife and a next-door neighbor were among more than a dozen people sheltering in one of the schools. Their home was not flooded, but St. Croix said he had seen flooding in the area.
Volunteers at the schools said about 120 vehicles were in the parking lots and about 30 people had been staying on cots inside, according to WNEM-TV.
In Chicago, water that flooded some areas downtown was receding on Tuesday, but Larry Langford, a fire department spokesman, said that he did not expect power to be restored at the iconic Willis Tower for days because the rains caused the building’s subbasements to fill with as much as 25 feet (7.6 meters) of water. The building was closed to tenants and visitors.
Flood warnings in Michigan were issued following widespread rainfall of up to 4 inches (10.2 centimeters) since May 17, according to the National Weather Service. Heavy runoff pushed rivers higher.
“A lot of the rainfall came and hit the Saginaw Valley over the last 48 hours,” meteorologist Andrew Arnold said. “For the most part, the rain is over.”
The weather system was moving into Indiana, Ohio, parts of Illinois and the Tennessee Valley, Arnold said.
More flooding was forecast for parts of the Tittabawassee River, which was at 26.5 feet (8.1 meters) Tuesday morning. It was expected to crest Wednesday morning at about 30 feet (9.1 meters). Flood stage is 24 feet (7.3 meters).
Midland County 911 sent out a series of alerts saying the Edenville and Sanford dams were at risk of failing, and those living near Sanford Lake, Wixom Lake and other area waterways should evacuate.
Midland County Emergency Management later said that the dams were “structurally sound.” It said water flowing through the dam spillgates couldn’t be controlled, however, so evacuation measures remained in place.
Just to the north in Gladwin County, the weather service issued a flash flood warning for the Cedar River below the Chappel Dam. And other parts of the state saw isolated flooding following heavy rains in recent days.
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