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Midland flood displaces thousands, threatens chemical plant

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said experts describe it as a 500-year event with major, longstanding impacts on the community and state.

MIDLAND, Mich. — Rapidly rising water overtook two privately-owned dams in central Michigan and forced the evacuation of about 10,000 people in from flooded communities along rain-swollen waterways. 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is warning that downtown Midland could end up “under approximately 9 feet of water." She addressed the flooding and provided an update on the state's response at a 12:45 p.m. press conference Wednesday, May 20. 

"Experts are describing this as a 500-year event, it's going to have a major impact on this community and on our state for the time to come," Whitmer said during the press conference. "We are going to be very aggressive about getting help from our federal partners."

Whitmer said she has been speaking with the federal government, "They know that we will be formally asking FEMA for support."

FEMA is the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency and provides federal funds to help communities respond and recovery from disasters such as severe flooding, hurricanes and more. Whitmer said she would provide more information about reaching out to FEMA as it becomes available.

The dams were owned by a private company and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer also said the state will be investigating the failures, including exploring all legal options. There have been no deaths or serious injuries as a result of the flooding.

Watch the full press conference here: 

Gov. Whitmer on Midland County flooding

Watch live: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is giving an update after 2 dams breachedin Midland county, causing severe flooding and evacuations More: https://bit.ly/3cPAo3c

Posted by 13 On Your Side on Wednesday, May 20, 2020

On Wednesday morning, water several feet deep covered some downtown streets near the Tittabawassee River. The river has topped a 1986 record of 33.9 feet. A t 7 a.m. Wednesday, the National Weather Service said the flood stage was over 34 feet and rising. Later Wednesday, the river crested at 35 feet and is now on its way down.

The NWS issued a flood warning for locations along the Tittabawassee River after the breach at the Edenville Dam and the Sanford Dam.

Tuesday evening, Gov. Whitmer declared a state of emergency for Midland County. Whitmer said the 51st Civil Support Team out of Fort Custer was requested to help Dow Chemical.  

Two schools were opened for evacuees in the Midland area, as well as emergency shelters. The state is encouraging those from the area to stay with family or friends 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 approximately 130 soldiers and more than 40 specialized vehicles including high water vehicles and a helicopter, arrived in the area to provide assistance. 

Michigan State Police and the DNR are also assisting in the county. More than 20 conservation officers from throughout the region responded with 10 DNR patrol vessels and search and rescue equipment to help continue the evacuation of flood victims, including people and pets.

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

The Associated Press contributed to this reporting.

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