For more than 96 years the Edenville dam has turned the Tittabawassee River into a peaceful lake, but at 6:00 PM on Tuesday the dam officially failed. Edenville County officials spent most of Tuesday warning citizens to evacuate in case the dam broke. By the time flood waters rushed into the valley in late evening, the dam’s spill water floodgates had already been wide open for most of the day as hydroelectric engineers sacrificed power capacity in the hope that alleviating pressure in the reservoir would save the dam, but their efforts were in vain. The subsequent flooding forced more than 10,000 inhabitants of the immediate vicinity to evacuate their homes into crowded temporary housing in school gymnasiums and other public institutions, a situation which has raised concerns about a possible resurgence of COVID-19 in the area.
Governor Whitmer has declared a state of emergency for Edenville County and plans to apply to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for crisis aid. It is unclear as of yet whether there have been any fatalities from the flooding, but the incident has set a new record for disastrous flooding in the area, surpassing a 1986 storm with a new flood height of 33.9 feet.
As the flood waters move downstream more dams are expected to fail, the Sanford dam has already been breached. We will update this article as the situation changes. The city of Midland has provided a potential flooding map showing where floodwaters are likely to become dangerous. People living in the shaded areas of the map are strongly advised to evacuate. As the flood waters may have flown into holding ponds or other contaminated areas, anyone drawing from the local groundwater should boil water before drinking it. The whole episode has been described as “the worst natural disaster in the state’s modern history.” If you are affected by this disaster, evacuate if you are in the flooding zone. Otherwise, remember to stay home and stay safe amidst the Coronavirus crisis.