Michigan Evacuates Thousands As Gov. Warns City Could Be Under 9 Feet Of Water

“We are anticipating a historic high water level."

Getty Images / Floodwaters flowing from the Tittabawassee River into the lower part of downtown Midland

Around 10,000 residents in central Michigan have been ordered to evacuate their homes, as two dam failures have propelled rapidly rising water levels in the Tittabawassee River, and officials warn of record-level floods. 

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency for Midland County late on Tuesday after the state’s Edenville and Sanford dams breached. The National Weather Service is urging residents near the river to “seek higher ground immediately, avoid driving into flood waters, and continue to heed evacuation orders given by local authorities.”

During a Tuesday evening briefing, Whitmer urged around 10,000 Midland County residents to evacuate immediately, adding that by Wednesday, downtown Midland “could be under approximately 9 feet of water.”

“We are anticipating a historic high water level," she said. 

Whitmer also encouraged people to wear face coverings and observe social distancing “to the best of your ability” to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. 

“To go through this in the midst of a global pandemic is almost unthinkable. But we are here, and to the best of our ability, we are going to navigate this together,” she said.

According to Michigan Radio, up to eight inches of rain earlier in this week contributed to the dam failures.

“The city of Midland is bracing for the worst," the station reported. "Midland has evacuated 10,000 people, along with patients in the city's hospital. Residents of Sanford, Edenville and other communities have also been forced from their homes."

On top of the flooding, Whitmer has been dealing with residents who oppose the state’s extended coronavirus-related shutdowns, which are currently effective through May 28. At the beginning of the month, protestors, some of whom were armed, filled Michigan’s state capitol and demanded an end to the shutdowns. Demonstrations have continued throughout the month against Whitmer’s stay-at-home orders.