Gladwin County: People trapped in homes, leaders frustrated over exclusion from disaster declaration

GLADWIN COUNTY (WJRT) (05/21/2020) - Midland County was hit hard, but the crisis started when the Edenville Dam collapsed on the Gladwin County border.

Leaders there are frustrated, wondering why they're not included in those state or federal emergency declarations.

“It’s just… it’s desperate,” said Beaverton City Manager Heath Kaplan. “I’m not making this up. This isn’t a soap opera.”

Gladwin County looks like the set of a disaster movie: a surreal scene of drained lakes, ruined buildings and roads now little more than mud strewn debris fields.

“I’m telling you right now, we’re hurting,” said Heath. “We need help now. Not tomorrow, not the next day, we need help now.”

Kaplan said people are trapped in their ruined homes by flood ravaged roads and running out of time to get the help they need.

“There are no roads,” Kaplan said. “There are no bridges to get to them. There’s no EMS, fire or local law enforcement that can get to them right now. They’re running out of resources.”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer requested a federal disaster declaration for its southern neighbor, Midland County, which President Donald Trump approved Thursday. That left Kaplan and others feeling as though Gladwin had been abandoned.

“Our residents are asking questions,” Kaplan said. “They’re scared, they’re worried, they’re anxious… What do we do? We want answers. I don’t have any for them right now.”

Gladwin County remains under a Flash Flood Warning through Friday morning. Even so, aerial footage shows rising waters have already made their mark: dozens of streets washed out, two bridges gone and tens of millions in damage.

This in a county with less manpower to wade through the challenges it now faces.

“In the middle of a pandemic now, we’re dealing now with a massive disaster,” Kaplan said. “Our resources aren’t built to handle two crises at once.”

Dale George, a spokesman for the Michigan State Police Emergency Management and Homeland Security division, said Whitmer is reviewing Gladwin County's request for an emergency declaration.

As the water recedes, Kaplan said the help cannot wait. Boots on the ground are needed now and not tomorrow.

“We need assistance,” he said. “Whatever toolbox our governor has available, we need that on the ground ASAP.”