Whitmer calls on Trump to declare Midland-area flood disaster while in Michigan

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer tours an emergency shelter at Midland High School during record-setting floods on the Tittabawassee River.
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LANSING (WJRT) (5/21/2020) - Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is seeking federal disaster declaration for flooding in the Midland area and asking President Donald Trump to sign the order in Michigan on Thursday.

Whitmer said she sent a letter to Trump on Wednesday evening after she toured massive flooding caused by heavy rains and the failure of the Edenville and Sanford dams on the Tittabawassee River.

The river crested in Midland on Wednesday evening at over 35 feet, which surpassed the record high level set during massive floods in 1986.

Hundreds of homes and businesses from Edenville downstream through Sanford, Midland and into Saginaw County suffered flood damage -- and many were completely destroyed.

Whitmer said the area will need help from the federal government to respond to the ongoing floods and continue to recover. She hopes Trump acts on the issue when he visits a Ford automotive plant near Ypsilanti on Thursday.

"I'm hopeful that as he is coming to our state today, I think it would be great if he signed that emergency declaration while he's here in Michigan today -- and that is my fervent hope," Whitmer said.

She flew over the flooded areas in a Michigan State Police helicopter on Wednesday and visited an emergency evacuation shelter set up at Midland High School.

"The damage is truly devastating to see how high the water levels are, to see roofs barely visible in parts of Midland and to see a lake that's been drained," Whitmer said. "It's truly remarkable how much damage we have sustained."

She praised local emergency crews from Gladwin, Midland and Saginaw counties for evacuating 10,000 people quickly without any serious injuries or deaths as the floodwaters rose rapidly.

Whitmer called on the public to help take care of the residents and businesses displaced by the flooding.

"This is truly a crisis in the middle of a crisis," she said.

Whitmer said local emergency crews will guide the response with help from state and hopefully federal resources.

Whitmer also addressed concern about the condition of Edenville Dam, which had a spotty safety rating and failed first. The torrent of water from Wixom Lake then overwhelmed the Sanford Dam downstream.

While she had advocated for additional investment in infrastructure, Whitmer noted the dams both are privately owned.

"We can talk about the merits of whether or not private company should own critical infrastructure. I don't think that they should. But that's what we're dealing with here," she said.

Whitmer hopes to repair or rebuild the dams to continue the lakefront way of life for residents on Wixom and Sanford lakes.

"Obviously, we're first and foremost focusing on people who had to deal with floods coming into their homes," she said. "But we all pay our infrastructure bills, and that's why we've all got to be a part of making sure that that doesn't happen."

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer tours an emergency shelter at Midland High School during record-setting floods on the Tittabawassee River.