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Dam failures in Michigan lead to the evacuation of thousands

Flood zones could be under as much as nine feet of water by Wednesday

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Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
(Jeff Kowalsky/Getty Images)
Updated: May 20, 2020 - 8:02am

About 10,000 people have been evacuated from central Michigan, where floods are plaguing communities that reside along the Tittabawassee River and connected lakes.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said that some downtown areas are at risk of being under about 9 feet of water by Wednesday.

The National Weather Service is advising anyone living near the river to move to higher ground, citing “catastrophic dam failures” at the Edenville and Sanford dams.

“We are anticipating an historic high water level,” said the governor.

Dow Chemical Co., whose main plant sits on river banks that are downstream of the Sanford Dam, has activated its emergency operations center and will now adjust operations in accordance with flood conditions.

Whitmer declared a state of emergency for Midland County, recommending that those living in flood zones go to the homes of friends or relatives.

“This is unlike anything we’ve seen in Midland," she said. "If you have a family member or loved one who lives in another part of the state, go there now.” 

The Edenville Dam, which was built in 1924, was judged to be in unsatisfactory condition when it was inspected in 2018.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission revoked the license of the company that operated the Dam because of non-compliance issues, including the projected inability to prevent the more severe flooding that might occur in the area.

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