MIDLAND, MI –(Mlive) – Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued an emergency declaration late Tuesday and sent the National Guard to help after two dams failed in the Midland area after heavy rains.
She also urged residents in evacuation zones to get out immediately.
“Please, get somewhere safe now,” she said in a 10 p.m. Tuesday, May 19 press conference.
About 10,000 people in the city of Midland are being evacuated, along with the village of Sanford, Edenville and Dow Chemical. Officials also are trying to evacuate areas of Tittabawassee Township, Thomas Township and Saginaw Township, she said.
Whitmer listed several shelters where people can go, including Midland High School, Meridian Junior High School, Bullock Creek High School and West Midland Family Center.
She urged people to “do not hesitate” and go stay with a friend, relative or get to a shelter.
Whitmer said the worst case scenario calls for downtown Midland to be under nine feet of water in the next 12-15 hours.
“We are anticipating an historic high water level,” she said.
The state emergency operations center has been activated and the National Guard is on the scene with high-water vehicles being deployed. She said the Guard’s 125th Infantry has been called and 100 soldiers will be doing inspections.
Also the Guard’s 51st Civil Support Team has been asked to support Dow Chemical and the Red Cross is in the area.
Whitmer said authorities are working to move up to 150 patients out of the MidMichigan Medical Center.
“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,” she said.
“But we are here and to the best of our ability, we are going to navigate this together,” Whitmer said.
She encouraged people to continue to wear masks if possible and observe social distancing if possible.
In a Midland County press conference late Tuesday, Midland City Manager Brad Kaye said about one-quarter of the city’s population, or about 10,000 people, are being asked to evacuate.
“This is a massive effort,” he said.
Kaye said the flood heights, under a worst-case scenario, could approach 4 1/2 feet to 5 feet higher than the historic 1986 flood.
“While the 1986 flood was a 100-year flood, what we’re looking at here is an event that is the equivalent of a 500-year flood,” he said, calling the situation unprecedented. “It’s something that is extremely rare, extremely catastrophic and quite dangerous.”
He said authorities are going into evacuation zones with police and fire trucks and asking people to leave. He asked people to take the evacuation seriously.
Kaye reminded the public that the flooding could put water and sewer systems as risk.
“They will be inundated if we get these flood levels,” he said.
He said residents may have back-ups and flooding into basements in some areas.