Home Emergency Management News EDM Wednesday Briefing: Two Dam Failures Prompt Evacuation of Central Michigan Residents
EDM Wednesday Briefing: Two Dam Failures Prompt Evacuation of Central Michigan Residents

EDM Wednesday Briefing: Two Dam Failures Prompt Evacuation of Central Michigan Residents


Emergency and disaster management briefing for May 20, 2020: Heavy rainfall caused two catastrophic dam failures in central Michigan; Cyclone Amphan slams into the coast of eastern India and Bangladesh with 120 mph winds and large swells; infrastructure repairs are still needed after an Easter tornado ripped through Collegedale in Tennessee; flooding that occurred in multiple warehouses and businesses in an Ohio Township led to the rescue of at least 55 workers; more than half the wildfires in Utah in 2019 were human-caused; the President announced a food assistance program that directly provides funding to ranchers and farmers impacted by the coronavirus; emergency officials are concerned about disaster fatigue affecting residents in hurricane-prone areas ahead of the 2020 hurricane season; and the Port of Wilmington welcomed its largest-ever post-Panamax ship on Wednesday.

Start an Emergency & Disaster Management degree at American Military University.

1) Heavy rainfall in central Michigan overfilled rivers and caused two catastrophic dam failures. According to the National Weather Service (NWS), catastrophic failures occurred at two dams, the Edenville Dam on Tuesday and the Sanford Dam on Wednesday, forcing the evacuations of thousands of residents living in homes below the dams. A state of emergency has been declared for multiple counties, prompting the activation of the State Emergency Operations Center.

2) Cyclone Amphan slammed into the eastern coast of India and Bangladesh Wednesday afternoon with 120 mph winds, causing high waves and flooding threats. The storm caused at least two deaths and was expected to continue inland toward Kolkata, India's largest city. As the cyclone approached India and Bangladesh, evacuation efforts were hindered by the ongoing response to the coronavirus pandemic, such as requirements that included opening more shelters to house the evacuees.

3) The city of Collegedale near Chattanooga, Tennessee, was struck by an EF-3 tornado on Easter night and is still dealing with debris clean-up and repairs. Repairs on damaged infrastructure, including a sewer pump station, The Commons, and the library, still need to be completed; however, the city is waiting on bids for the repairs. The city has contracted additional services to grind brush debris that continues to accumulate due to damages incurred during the tornado.

4) In Ohio, saturated grounds amid heavy rainfall that continued on Tuesday caused flooding in an industrial area in West Chester Township. Mill Creek overflowed its banks, flooding multiple warehouses and businesses in the area and prompting the need to rescue at least 55 people due to the rising high water. Assistant Fire Chief Randall Hanifen noted that the water rose swiftly, and many of the businesses, which were housed in warehouse-type buildings, were likely unaware of the danger.

5) According to new reports, more than half of the wildfires that occurred in Utah in 2019 were human-caused. Utah had a total of 1,027 wildfires, 690 of which were caused by human activity, including leaving fires unattended and the use of fireworks. The remaining 370 wildfires were caused by lightning, and fire officials are asking residents to use extra caution when using ignition sources this fire season to help prevent wildfires from starting.

6) President Trump announced a food assistance program to ranchers and farmers in order to ensure the safety of the food supply chain. The program provides $19 billion overall to the program, with $16 billion going directly to farmers and ranchers to compensate for losses due to the coronavirus. Signup for the program begins on May 26, and the issuing of payments is allegedly to occur a week after filed applications are received.

7) Just days before the start of the 2020 hurricane season, emergency officials are concerned that some residents may be impacted by disaster fatigue. Hurricane season begins on June 1 amid the ongoing coronavirus response that has prompted shutdowns across the nation. Emergency management officials are concerned that citizens have had enough of hearing about the virus and could tune out critical messages regarding preparedness and approaching storms.

8) The expansion of the Panama Canal led to the building of larger container ships, dubbed Panamax ships, and required many ports across the nation to implement infrastructure enhancements to accommodate the larger-sized ships. Enhancements made over the last few years to the Port of Wilmington, North Carolina, including neo-Panamax cranes, led to a historic moment on Wednesday. The MV Hyundai Hope, a Panamax ship, was set to dock for the first time as the largest-ever container ship to visit the NC port. The arrival and docking of this ship in the port will put it on par with other, already enhanced ports, including New York and Charleston.


Kimberly Arsenault Kimberly Arsenault serves as an intern at the Cleveland/Bradley County Emergency Management Agency where she works on plan revisions and special projects. Previously, Kimberly spent 15 years in commercial and business aviation. Her positions included station manager at the former Midwest Express Airlines, as well as corporate flight attendant, inflight manager, and charter flight coordinator. Kimberly currently holds a master's degree in emergency and disaster management from American Public University.