Michigan dam failures: 10,000 forced to evacuate, governor warns downtown Midland could end up under 9 feet water
Challenges multiplied for Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer on Tuesday, May 19, after several days of rain and rising water level breached two dams in the state. Around 10,000 people were evacuated as a result and Whitmer warned that one town could go nearly nine feet underwater by Wednesday, May 20.
For the second time in less than 24 hours, people living along two lakes and a river were asked to leave home and shift to safety. The evacuations in the Great Lake(s) State came days after heavy downpour that also caused flooding in Chicago and other parts of Illinois and states like Ohio and others.
According to Associated Press, the National Weather Service on Tuesday, May 19, evening appealed to people to seek higher refuge following ‘catastrophic dam failures’ at the Edenville Dam, located around 140 miles north of Detroit and Sanford Dam, located around seven miles downriver. “Extremely dangerous flash flooding is ongoing along the Tittabawassee River in Midland county due to catastrophic dam failures at the Edenville and Sanford dams,” the service informed on its website.
Whitmer said downtown Midland, a city of around 42,000 people and located eight miles downstream from the Sanford Dam, faced a serious flood threat.“In the next 12 to 15 hours, downtown Midland could be under approximately 9 feet of water,” the governor said, adding: “We are anticipating a historic high water level.” Dow Chemical Co’s main plant is located on the city's riverbank.
She declared a state of emergency for Midland County and appealed to the flood-threatened residents to stay with friends or relatives or go for several shelters that have been set up across the county, the AP report added. She also asked the people to observe social distancing measures ‘to the best of their ability as preventive measures against the coronavirus that has claimed nearly 92,000 lives in the US so far.
The latest tragedy has happened in less than a week after Michigan shut its capitol building and canceled legislative session after the Democratic governor faced death threats for implementing strict lockdown orders in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. The 48-year-old announced about a partial reopening of restaurants and bars with limited attendance in the Upper Peninsula and Travesty City area starting Friday, May 22 and said more such announcements could come in the coming days.
The coronavirus situation in Michigan was not looking too good as the state health department reported 435 new cases of Covid-19 and 102 additional loss of lives from the virus on Tuesday. The Detroit Free Press cited data reported by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to show that the total number of affected people in the state is 52,350 while the death toll has gone past 5,000. Among the confirmed cases of infection, the fatality rate is 10 percent. The 102 new cases of death that have been reported on May 19 include 43 that the state’s health department identified in a review of death certificates and did not happen in the 24-hour period of reporting, the Free Press report added. As of Friday, May 15, Michigan has seen more than 28,000 people recovering. Officials define recovery as cases who have crossed 30 days from the start of the illness.