Home Emergency Management News Michigan Dam Breaks Force Thousands to Flee Rising Water
Michigan Dam Breaks Force Thousands to Flee Rising Water

Michigan Dam Breaks Force Thousands to Flee Rising Water

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By David E. Hubler
Contributor, EDM Digest

Extremely heavy rains this past weekend caused two dams to break in Midland, Michigan, on Tuesday. The severe flooding forced the evacuation of about 11,000 people, WZZM-TV Channel 13 reported. Many homes and other buildings were destroyed by the surging water.

As of Friday morning there were no reports of deaths or severe injuries.

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The Grand River in Grand Rapids was expected to crest at around 20 feet on Friday. A flood warning remains in effect for the Grand River in Kent and Ottawa counties. The flood advisory for Muskegon County has expired.

Workers are checking evacuees’ temperatures and handing out masks because of the coronavirus pandemic, Midland spokesperson Salina Crosby told CNN.

The flood advisory for Muskegon County has expired but the Grand River in Grand Rapids is expected to crest on Friday. Local authorities have warned that it may be days before they can fully assess the widespread damage.

100-Year-Old Edenville and Sanford Dams Collapsed

Wixon Lake is nearly empty following the collapse of the nearly 100-year-old Edenville and Sanford dams. Normally the dams contain the Tittabawassee River to create two separate lakes.

Rainfall overwhelmed sewers in Ann Arbor, forcing the wastewater plant to release an estimated 600 to 1,500 gallons of partially treated sewage into the Huron River, according to MLive. The Huron River crested just shy of 16 feet on Tuesday, a one-day record.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer told a news conference Wednesday that experts describe the flooding “as a 500-year event” that is going to have a major impact on the community and on the state for some time to come.

Whitmer said she wrote to President Trump asking him to declare a state of emergency in Midland County in order to provide federal disaster aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

The New York Times said Trump tweeted on Wednesday morning that FEMA and the military had been deployed to Michigan to assist with disaster response. “But he also used the occasion to repeat his criticism of Governor Whitmer for not lifting coronavirus restrictions faster,” The Times noted.

“Aid the state is requesting includes but is not limited to debris removal, mobile bridges to ensure access for emergency response vehicles and equipment to flooded areas, emergency medical responders from the National Guard, and technical assistance and sandbags from the US Army Corps of Engineers,” WZZM-TV Channel 13 explained.

Michigan Will Investigate Cause of Privately Owned Dams’ Failure

Whitmer said the state will investigate the why the privately owned dams failed.

The New York Times also reported that the two dams that failed in Michigan on Tuesday were among at least 170 dams in the state that are classified as having a “high” hazard potential by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, meaning that a failure could result in the loss of life.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which oversees hydroelectric dams, revoked the Edenville Dam’s license in 2018 because of a “longstanding failure to increase the project’s spillway capacity to safely pass flood flows,” among other issues.

According to The Times, the commission said it had been pressing the dam’s owner, Boyce Hydro Power, since 2004 to upgrade the dam so it could survive a “probable maximum flood event,” meaning the worst combination of bad weather and high runoff that could reasonably be expected. Without an upgrade, the agency’s engineers believed the dam could handle only about 50 percent of the floodwaters from such an event.

Dow Chemical Company Headquarters Reported Flood Waters No Threat to Residents

The Dow Chemical Company, headquartered in Midland, released a statement on Facebook saying that while there were confirmed flood waters that mixed with an on-site pond used for storm water, brine system and groundwater remediation – the material from the pond commingling with flood waters “does not create any threat to residents or environmental damage.”

The company also said there have been no reported product releases as a result of the flooding, following the two dam failures.

Muskegon County resident Penny Larson, who spent all day Tuesday pumping gallons of water out of her crawl space and yard, summed up the situation by commenting, “We’ve been in this home for 42 years and we’ve never had any water in our home.”

David Hubler David E. Hubler brings a variety of government, journalism and teaching experience to his position as a Quality Assurance Editor at APUS. David’s professional background includes serving as a senior editor at CIA and the Voice of America. He has also been a managing editor for several business-to-business and business-to-government publishing companies. David has taught high school English in Connecticut and at Northern Virginia Community College. He has a master’s degree for Teachers of English from the University of New Hampshire and a B.A. in English from New York University. In March 2017, Rowman & Littlefield published the paperback edition of David’s latest book, "The Nats and the Grays, How Baseball in the Nation's Capital Survived WWII and Changed the Game Forever."