Whitmer declares state of emergency after Midland dam breaches, 10K could be evacuated

By: - May 20, 2020 5:56 am

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer gives an update on Midland flooding | Gov. Whitmer office photo

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Tuesday declared a state of emergency for Midland County after the Edenville and Sanford dams were breached following heavy rainstorms. About 10,000 people could be evacuated, ABC News reports.

“In the next 12 to 15 hours, downtown Midland could be under approximately nine feet of water,” Whitmer said Thursday night at a press conference. “We are anticipating an historic high water level.”

Michigan as a whole remains under a state of emergency and disaster for the COVID-19 pandemic that has resulted in more than 52,000 cases and 5,000 deaths in the state.

“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,” Whitmer said. “So please, to the best of your ability, continue to wear a face covering when you go to a shelter or go stay with a friend or relative.”


Whitmer said earlier on Thursday that the State Emergency Operations Center was activated and state officials from multiple departments have been on-site throughout Thursday. The National Guard has been activated.

Dow Chemical, a major employer in Midland, also has activated its emergency operations center.

“If you have a family member or loved one who lives in another part of the state, go there now,” Whitmer said. “If you don’t, go to one of the shelters that have opened across the county.”

Shelters have are open at:

  • Midland High School at 1301 Eastlawn,
  • Bullock Creek High School at 1420 S. Badour,
  • and the West Midland Family Center at 4011 W Isabella.

ABC News reports that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in 2018 revoked the license of the company that operated the Edenville Dam “due to non-compliance issues that included spillway capacity and the inability to pass the most severe flood reasonably possible in the area.”

The state rated the dam in unsatisfactory condition that year. The Sanford Dam received a fair condition rating. Both dams are being sold, ABC reports.

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Susan J. Demas

Susan J. Demas is a 22-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQ+ people, the state budget, the economy and more. She previously served as Vice President of Farough & Associates, Michigan’s premier political communications firm. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 90 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive. She is the only Michigan journalist to be named to the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Reporters,” the Huffington Post’s list of “Best Political Tweeters” and the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Bloggers.” Susan was the recipient of a prestigious Knight Foundation fellowship in nonprofits and politics. She served as Deputy Editor for MIRS News and helped launch the Michigan Truth Squad, the Center for Michigan’s fact-checking project. She started her journalism career reporting on the Iowa caucuses for The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. Susan has hiked over 5,000 solo miles across four continents and climbed more than 80 mountains. She also enjoys dragging her husband and two kids along, even if no one else wants to sleep in a tent anymore.