Whitmer working with FEMA on federal aid for Midland, investigating dam failures
(5/20/2020) - Gov. Gretchen Whitmer already has reached out to obtain federal disaster assistance for the Midland floods.
She called the event a 500-year flood, which will have major effects for the Midland community and all of Michigan.
The Tittabawassee River already reached a record level Wednesday morning above 34 feet. It is expected to crest in Midland around 8 p.m. at 38 feet, which is more than 4 feet above the previous record.
“This is an event unlike anything we’ve ever seen before,” Whitmer said.
She was in Midland on Wednesday to tour the destruction caused by flash floods after the Edenville and Sanford dams on the Tittabawassee River breached on Tuesday.
Whitmer hopes to meet with Federal Emergency Management Agency officials on Thursday, when President Donald Trump travels to Michigan for an event.
More than 10,000 people have evacuated from their homes to escape floodwaters. However, Whitmer said no deaths or serious injuries have been reported, which shows how seriously residents took the evacuation orders and how well the local emergency plans worked.
“We’re very pleased to see a 10,000-person evacuation that has gone as well as it can go,” she said.
The Edenville Dam breached around 5:45 p.m. Tuesday and much of Wixom Lake behind the structure had drained by Wednesday afternoon. That left boats and docks on solid ground.
Water levels were still rising in Midland as of 1 p.m. Wednesday. Midland City Manager Brad Kaye said the Sanford Dam is about 60% to 80% overtopped, meaning water is flowing over the structure.
Authorities aren't sure about the dam's condition because so much of it is underwater. Aerial crews are flying overhead regularly to determine how much of the Sanford Dam remains intact.
Kaye said the flooding situation in Midland could worsen significantly if the Sanford Dam fails entirely. That would send a much higher surge of water into the city.
Dow has closed most of its facilities around Midland and the U.S. Coast Guard was assisting the company with its response.
“At this juncture the plan is working and they’ve been able to save any real serious damage from occurring," Whitmer said.
As the scale of damage becomes clearer, Whitmer said her administration is investigating how the dams failed and who was responsible.
She said problems with the dams were well-known before the failures, so state authorities are investigating and will take any appropriate action after facts are gathered.