Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) declared a state of emergency for Midland County on Tuesday night after two dams failed, flooding areas along the Tittabawassee River. The National Weather Service warned anyone near the engorged river to seek higher ground after "catastrophic dam failures" at the Edenville and Sanford dams, about 140 miles north of Detroit. Michigan officials said about 10,000 residents are being evacuated in Midland, Edenville, and Sanford. Midland, a town of 42,000, has a major Dow Chemical plant on the city's riverbank.
"In the next 12 to 15 hours, downtown Midland could be under approximately nine feet of water," Whitmer warned in a press briefing late Tuesday. "If you have not evacuated the area, do so now and get somewhere safe," she added in a statement. "This is unlike anything we've seen in Midland County. If you have a family member or loved one who lives in another part of the state, go there now. If you don't, go to one of the shelters that have opened across the county."
Heavy rains have caused flooding as far away as Chicago this week. The Edenville Dam, built in 1924, was rated in unsatisfactory condition by Michigan in 2018 and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission revoked the license of its operator, The Associated Press reports. In all, Michigan had 19 high hazard dams in poor or unsatisfactory condition in 2018, AP adds. The Sanford Dam, built in 1925, was deemed in fair condition by the state, and both it and the Edenville Dam "are in the process of being sold."