MI Year In Review: Coronavirus, Kidnapping Plot, A 500-Year Flood

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MICHIGAN — It's the last day of 2020, something a lot of people in Michigan will be celebrating. New Year's Day means something different in the transition to 2021 because it means the end of 2020 and what was, for many Michiganders, the most trying and tumultuous time of their lives.

The year presented Michiganders with a little bit of everything. So, as we say goodbye to 2020, here's a look back at some of the biggest stories.

'500-Year Flood'

In May, thousands of people living near Midland were evacuated from their homes at least temporarily following the failure of the Edenville dam. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called it a "500-year flood."

Heavy rains prefaced the dam failure, which led to the flooding of the Tobacco and Tittabawassee Rivers. The failure of the dam, which was found to be in poor condition, has been investigated by the state.

Wixom Lake was mostly drained on the Tittabawassee riverside following the dam failure, leading to a diversion of water from the Tobacco River and causing the collapse of the M-30 causeway bridge.

Work on the temporary bridge site on M-30 over the Tobacco River is still underway, part of a $4.3 million investment to build a prefabricated steel bridge at the site of the former overpass. Michigan Department of Transporation officials estimate that the project will be completed in February 2021.

George Floyd Protests

Following the death of George Floyd, a black man who died while in the custody of Minneapolis police, in May, protests began across the nation. That was no different in Michigan, where peaceful demonstrations and marches took place in Detroit and its suburbs, as well as on the west side of the state.

The protests, and the right to protest, were supported by Michigan law enforcement officials. Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worth said she supported people executing their rights to protest.

But some protesters were met with resistance, and some people exploited the opportunity to cause trouble, according to some officials.

The Wolverine Watchmen

In October, several people were charged with conspiring to kidnap and potentially kill Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Fourteen people have been accused in the plot, including two from outside Michigan.

Initially, the federal prosecutors charged six people in the plot. According to federal afidavits, the group of men spied on the governor's personal vacation home and theorized ways to kidnap her. They went so far as to discuss potentially blowing up a bridge near the home in order to delay first responders and even discussed knocking on her door to "just cap her."

Eight other men were charged at the state level through an investigation headed by Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel. That group, nicknamed the "Wolverines Watchmen," had similar plans and executed live-fire exercised in rural parts of western Michigan.

More than 200 state and federal law enforcement officials were involved in the operation in early October, according to Nessel's office. A series of search warrants and arrest warrants in more than a dozen cities around the state, including Belleville, Cadillac, Canton, Charlotte, Clarkston, Grand Rapids, Luther, Munith, Orion Township, Ovid, Portage, Shelby Township and Waterford.

The cases are at various levels at the federal and state court level.

Historic Election

The November 2020 presidential election was historic for many reasons, but in Michigan, it was followed by a series of events that added to that notoriety.

Democratic President-elect defeated President Donald Trump by more than 154,000 votes in Michigan. But Trump, unsatisfied with the Nov. 3 election results across the nation, said Michigan — and Wayne County and Detroit in particular — were home to widespread voter fraud.

No evidence of voter fraud has been found, according to state and federal authorities.

But the comments surrounding Wayne County led to the spotlight being on the Wayne County Board of Canvassers when it came time for the group to certify the Nov. 3 election results. Eventually, the board did certify the results, but at first, it appeared they might not.

The board voted 4-0 to certify the election results but with a request to Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson to audit precincts that were discovered to be out-of-balance.

Board members initially failed to certify the county's Nov. 3 election results, splitting the vote to certify the results 2-2.

In December, federal authorities announced that Monica Palmer, the board president, had been receiving threats related to her position on the board and that a New Hampshire woman had been accused of sending her photos of a nude and mutilated woman's body.

A similar controversy surrounded the vote certification at the state level. The Michigan Board of Canvassers approved the election results on Nov. 23 during a virtual meeting that around 21,000 people watched live on YouTube.

Several lawsuits were filed seeking to stop the count of votes in Michigan and, once they had been counted, sought to delay certification. In December, Michigan's leading Republican official said enough was enough and acknowledged that Biden had won the election.

The Coronavirus Pandemic

It is possible that 2020 will always be remembered for the coronavirus pandemic. Early on, Michigan was among the hardest-hit states when it came to the virus, and remains among the nation's Top 10 states for the most reported coronavirus cases and COVID-19 deaths. As of Wednesday, the state has reported confirmed 488,144 cases and 12,333 deaths.

The success of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's handling of the coronavirus pandemic in Michigan will long be debated. The governor utilized early 20th century laws to issue statewide executive orders that some views as necessary and others viewed as an abuse of power.

Early on, Whitmer issued executive orders requiring people to stay home if their jobs were non-essential, a plan she said aimed to contain the spread of the coronavirus. The order was extended at points, but after it eventually expired, it was never reissued.

Instead, Whitmer used executive orders to close businesses around the state. She also signed other orders that required masks in public places and limited the number of people who could gather in certain places.

The moves were death sentences for some businesses. According to data released by a Michigan business group, sales were down 25 percent on average across Michigan businesses. The actions led to lawsuits and Supreme Court debates, but in terms of saving lives, the aggressive actions worked, Whitmer has maintained. An early report by the Imperial College COVID-19 Response Team showed evidence that the early restrictions worked, which led to a slow reopening of much of the state's economy.

Are there other stories that were memorable for you in 2020? If so, mention them in a comment below.

This article originally appeared on the Detroit Patch

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