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State of emergency declared after 2 mid-Michigan dams breached

"This is unlike anything that we have ever seen before," the governor said Tuesday evening.

Thousands of residents in Midland County are being forced to evacuate after the Edenville and Sanford dams breached Tuesday. 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency for the county and urged residents of Edenville and Sanford to evacuate and get somewhere safe as soon as possible. 

"This is serious and it is time for people to take action and evacuate," Whitmer said. "We still need thousands of people to take this action."

The city of Midland, which includes the main plant of Dow Chemical, sits on the banks of the Tittabawassee River about 8 miles away from the Edenville dam. Midland, the village of Sanford and Dow Chemical have already evacuated, and the state is working to get residents out of Tittabawassee, Thomas and Saginaw townships.

"In the next 12 to 15 hours, downtown Midland could be under approximately nine feet of water," Whitmer said. "We are anticipating an historic high water level."

The National Weather Services estimates that about 2 to 5 inches of rain fell in Midland, Bay, and Saginaw Counties over the previous few days. A flash flood warning remains in effect for Midland County. 

Emergency shelters were opened for evacuees in the Midland area, about 140 miles north of Detroit, after the breach of Edenville Dam, which holds back Wixom Lake. The state also encouraged people to stay with friends or family who live in other parts of the state. 

The State Emergency Operations Center was activated to help Midland County deal with the crisis. The National Guard was also called up, and about 100 soldiers are heading to the area with high water vehicles and a helicopter. Michigan State Police and the DNR are also assisting in the county.

Whitmer said the 51st Civil Support Team out of Fort Custer was requested to help Dow Chemical.  

"This is unlike anything we've ever seen before," said Whitmer. "I feel like I've said that a lot over the last number of weeks, but this is truly a historic event that is playing out in another historic event." 

The governor said that despite the flooding, people should still be taking appropriate measures to protect themselves amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

"This is going to be hard, and we are anticipating several feet of water in the area. To go through this in the midst of a global pandemic is almost unthinkable. But we are here and to the best of our ability, we are going to navigate this together," said Whitmer. 

The governor emphasized the need for people to move quickly, and she said the waters are still rising. The extent of the damage won't be known for another 12 to 15 hours. 

"The depth, and the destruction is unknown yet. But I think it's safe to anticipate that there are going to be a lot of people who are going to struggle as a result of this, on top of all of the other stressors that we have right now," she said.

Whitmer said the state will work on requests to get federal assistance to FEMA, but Tuesday night, their priority was getting people safely evacuated. 

More information on road closures and the flooding can be found at midland911.org

Watch Whitmer's full briefing here:

Gov. Whitmer on dam breach

Watch live: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is giving an update after a dam breached in mid-Michigan More: https://bit.ly/3g50pxf

Posted by 13 On Your Side on Tuesday, May 19, 2020

The Associated Press contributed to this reporting.

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