‘ It’s devastating’
Thousands of homes destroyed in catastrophic Mich. flood
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer
Up and down the river, Michiganders were drawn to the edge of the water out of curiosity. They stood on high ground and took pictures of the river, which was spilling through the town.
Most were not wearing face masks. There is little doubt Wednesday that life has now gotten much harder for an estimated 10,000 mid- Michigan residents who have homes that were destroyed in a record flood amid a pandemic.
Moreover, the costs to recover for cities like Midland, which were underwater, will be staggering – and long- lasting.
“The people of Michigan are able to rise up. We’re tough. We’re smart, and we care about each other.”
“What I can tell you, you’ve already seen from the pictures,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Wednesday afternoon in front of Midland High School after taking an aerial tour of the flooding. “It’s devastating.”
In addition to days of downpours, two dams – Edenville and Sanford – in the center of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula overflowed, an issue that Whitmer vowed that the state will be reviewing “every legal recourse that we have” because the damage requires that we “hold people responsible.”
The timing of the flooding is especially precarious, coming amid a pandemic that has taken the lives of more than 5,000 Michiganders and left about a third of the state’s workforce unemployed.
About 130 National Guard soldiers and more than 40 specialized vehicles were dispatched on Tuesday to help, with more than 200 more on the way.
Still, even as the floodwaters continued to rise to record levels and public officials tried Wednesday to sort out the damage and figure out how to keep people safe amid a pandemic, there was hope.
It had stopped raining, the sun had come out, and no one had died.
And residents came together to traverse treacherous roads to deliver sheltered evacuees food, and the governor took a moment in Midland during her otherwise serious media briefing to lightheartedly remind everyone to keep their distance.
Floodwaters came quickly
And on top of that, there was the continuing political backdrop of President Donald Trump tweeting both support after the flooding and threats to withhold funding for Michigan if state officials moved ahead with plans to send absentee ballot applications to every voter.
Trump is expected to visit the state Thursday.
About 100 people slept at a shelter set up at Midland High, their cots and air mattresses spread across the basketball floor. The beds were kept 6 feet apart because of social distancing.
A few people slept in their cars to avoid catching coronavirus.
In the shelter, people still had to maintain social distancing requirements. Everybody was required to wear masks. Three volunteers walked around the gym, continuously wiping down beds.
The Tittabawassee River in Midland entered major flood stage Tuesday when the river reached 28.25 feet at 10: 15 a. m., according to the National Weather Service. By that afternoon, the Tittabawassee and the Rifle rivers hit major flood stage.
The Edenville Dam on the Tittabawassee River, which is owned by Boyce Hydro, failed Tuesday evening, and the National Weather Service warned to expect flooding.
Water then went downstream to Sanford Lake, spilling over Sanford Dam. It was unclear how bad the damage was to Sanford Dam and whether it had breached or had just overflowed.
‘ We’re tough. We’re smart’
Midland, a city of 42,000, is about 8 miles downstream from the Sanford Dam and faced an especially serious flooding threat. Dow Chemical Co.’ s main plant sits on the city’s riverbank.
By Wednesday, Midland was at the center of the damage but not the only community reeling.
Despite Wednesday’s sunshine, Midland City Manager Brad Kaye said, the floodwaters continued to rise throughout the day setting new records. He warned residents: “Don’t let up, don’t take it easy.”
He said the city had been through other storms and flooding, but, “we have never been through an event such as what we are experiencing today.” He said that the sewer system had not held up, and there were power outages.
Up and down the river, people stared in awe at the extent of the flooding.
“Downtown Midland hasn’t been this packed since all the coronavirus stuff hit,” said David Reif, 29, of Midland.
He stood on high ground with Kristen Gerstenberger, 26, and they looked down at the Farmers Market, which was submerged.
“It’s up to the roof,” Reif said. “I don’t know if that is a 9- or 10- foot ceiling.”
Wednesday, Trump posted his support on Twitter for efforts to respond to flooding in mid- Michigan that has resulted in thousands of evacuations.
“My team is closely monitoring the flooding in Central Michigan – Stay SAFE and listen to local officials,” Trump posted about 10: 20 a. m. “Our brave First Responders are once again stepping up to serve their fellow citizens, THANK YOU!”
He also said in a separate post that his administration had already activated military and Federal Emergency Management Agency response teams, but added that Whitmer – who Trump has criticized in the past – “must now ‘ set you free’ to help.”
Whitmer added that she hopes that as a result of the dire situation, the state and federal government will be able to work quickly and cut through any red tape holding it up.
Whitmer said it was hard to believe that Michiganders were in the midst of a 100- year crisis, a global pandemic, and also dealing with catastrophic flooding.
“But, you know what?” she added, “Here’s what I know: When the chips are down, the people of Michigan are able to rise up. We’re tough. We’re smart, and we care about each other.”
Two dams failed after days of rain, flooding Midland, Mich.
Volunteers gather donations and make beds for people who had to evacuate because of record- setting flooding.
Community volunteers talk to evacuated residents and gather donations in Midland, Mich., after the Edenville and Sanford dams failed, flooding the area. No deaths were reported.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Wednesday surveys the shelter set up at Midland High School after floods forced residents to evacuate. STATE OF MICHIGAN