MICHIGAN — Thousands of people are being evacuated and much of the city of Midland is under water a day after two dams in Midland County failed, allowing water from two Michigan lakes to flow into a Mid-Michigan river.
The Edenville Dam in northern Midland County failed Tuesday afternoon, allowing water from Sanford and Wixom lakes to overtake the structure and flow heavily into the Tittabawassee River.
According to reports by The Midland Daily News, the Edenville Dam had a long history of neglect.
In 2018, the dam owner's license was revoked for “failure to increase the project’s spillway capacity to safely pass flood flows, as well as its failure to comply with its license” and regulations, the Daily News reported.
The Daily News cited a 2019 Associated Press article in reporting that the Edenville Dam was one of 1,600 across the state inspected and considered to pose risks. According to the Daily News article, the dam was classified as a “high hazard dam in unsatisfactory condition,” meaning that if it were to fail, there would very likely be fatalities.
The dam had last been inspected on May 25, 2010.
President Donald Trump took to Twitter Wednesday saying emergency relief would be coming to help those affected by the flooding in the form of FEMA and military support.
Flood warnings were issued in Michigan following rainfall of 4 to 7 inches beginning on Sunday, according to the National Weather Service.
A Flood Warning is in effect along the Tittabawassee River in Midland Co. due to the failure of the Edenville and Sanford dams. The gauge site at Midland exceeded the previous record stage of 33.89’ at approximately 5:30am. Life-threatening flooding continues today. #miwx pic.twitter.com/ddr3b4arWA
— NWS Detroit (@NWSDetroit) May 20, 2020
The rush of water has caused flooding in communities along the river, including Midland, a city of nearly 42,000 people. During a news conference Tuesday night, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said the city could be under 9 feet of water.
The river crested at 34.4 feet in the city, according to the Associated Press, breaking the previous record of 33.9 feet. The flood stage is 24 feet; the river is expected to crest at 38 feet by the end of the day, according to the National Weather Service.
Midland residents were asked to evacuate homes and seek shelter at higher ground. The National Guard has been assisting residents with the evacuation process.
Residents in Freeland, Tittabawassee Township and Saginaw Township, all of which are in Saginaw County and nearly 40 miles away from the dam, may also be required to evacuate their homes.
Dow Chemical Co.'s main plant, which sits on Midland's Tittabawassee riverbank, has drawn attention. The chemical company has said it is implementing emergency protocols.
Whitmer declared a state of emergency for Midland County Tuesday, while asking residents moving to county created shelters and or seeking safety with family or friends to continue wearing masks to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
We are working hard to protect Michigan residents after an unprecedented dam breach today. Thousands of people must evacuate now. Please heed the warning. We will get through this, and COVID19. #michiganstrong https://t.co/BogzFVibBX
— Dr. Joneigh Khaldun (@DrKhaldun) May 20, 2020
According to the Associated Press, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
The Dam was built in 1924 and was rated in unsatisfactory condition in 2018 by the state. The Sanford Dam, which was built in 1925, received a fair condition rating.
Both dams are in the process of being sold, the Associated Press reported.
There were 19 high hazard dams in unsatisfactory or poor condition in Michigan in 2018, ranking 20th among the 45 states and Puerto Rico for which The Associated Press obtained condition assessments.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
This is an evolving story and will be updated as more information becomes available.