Mass Evacuations in Michigan After Dams Collapse

After suffering record-breaking heavy rains, the Central Michigan city of Midland experienced a catastrophic 2-dam collapse along the Tittabawassee River yesterday evening. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency and expressed that “In the next 12 to 15 hours, downtown Midland could be under approximately nine feet of water.” Whitmer also urged people to swiftly evacuate the affected areas as forecasters are predicting a 38′ crest, 4′ higher than the 500-year flood in 1986.

Why This Matters: Michigan has been hit especially hard by the coronavirus in recent months and the dam collapse has been every governor’s worst nightmare: how to handle a natural disaster in the midst of a pandemic. This is an ongoing situation, but one additional threat to watch is that of how the flooding will affect the Dow Chemical facility also located in Midland.

A Perfect Storm: Why were rains so bad? MLive explained that the heaviest rain was produced by a condition that usually causes Michigan’s biggest rains – tropical moisture.

  • Tropical Storm Arthur was churning off the Mid-Atlantic coast. A conveyor belt of moisture traveled from the East Coast westward into Michigan.
  • The storm system already in place over Michigan was able to tap into that tropical moisture and really increase rainfall totals.

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