Publication Date May 20, 2020 | CNN

Thousands in Michigan evacuate after 2 dams are breached, and the governor warns city could soon be under '9 feet of water'

United States
Climate change is increasing the risk of extreme rainfall and flooding
Mark Musselman brings a chair to the front of his house on Tuesday in Edenville, Michigan.

Climate Signals Summary: In the Midwest, climate change is increasing extreme and total precipitation, which is greatly increasing the risk of severe flooding, like the current Michigan flooding.  

Article Excerpt: A rain-swollen river has flooded fields and streets in parts of mid-Michigan after breaching two dams, forcing evacuation orders for thousands amid a coronavirus pandemic that's posing safety challenges Wednesday for officials trying to provide shelter.

Parts of the city of Midland and surrounding areas were virtual lakes Wednesday morning, and it could get worse. Downtown in Midland, a city of about 41,000 people downstream of the dams, could eventually be "under approximately 9 feet of water" on Wednesday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said the prior night.


Water breached the Edenville and Sanford dams -- which normally contain the the Tittabawassee River to create two separate lakes -- north of Midland on Tuesday evening after days of heavy rain.

By Wednesday morning, water -- waist-deep in places near Sanford, video from CNN affiliate WDIV shows -- was lapping up against businesses and homes around the county.


With the coronavirus pandemic months underway, officials in the county are juggling two public safety crises at once. The flood disaster is one of the first to test how local, state and federal response efforts can handle the dual challenge.


The governor declared an emergency for the flooding, and said previous orders relating to the coronavirus crisis are locally suspended if they impede emergency responses for the flooding.

Though Wednesday is sunny and rain is not expected to resume for days, the river still was rising in Midland -- and by Wednesday morning was already past the previous record of 33.89 feet. That was set during a major flood in the city in 1986.

At that height alone, the river will be flooding many homes, according to the National Weather Service. The river could crest at 38 feet Wednesday evening, according to the weather service.