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.
Evacuation orders are in effect for about 3,500 homes and 10,000 people, Mark Bone, chairman of the Midland County Board of Commissioners, said he believes.
The scene wasn’t easy to watch, said Toni Mclennan, a maintenance technician who checked the complex to make sure everyone was out.
Mclennan felt “sadness” and “the hope that they come back,” she told the station. “I mean, especially with this pandemic and you’re getting people in close quarters, it’s probably that much more scary.”
At least five shelters are running in the Midland area Wednesday — at schools and family centers — and flood evacuees are being screened for the illness, officials say.
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.
Officials are giving health screenings and distributing masks at shelters
No deaths or injuries have been reported, Midland spokeswoman Selina Crosby Tisdale said Wednesday.
At the shelters, workers are checking evacuees’ temperatures and handing out masks to them because of the pandemic, Tisdale said.
Workers also are trying to space out the evacuees throughout the shelters, hoping to reduce the chances that anyone who might be carrying the virus spreads it to others.
Evacuees should expect to stay away from their homes for days, Tisdale said.
“We’re still waiting to crest, and then we have to wait for water levels to recede. It’s going to take days until we get to that point,” Tisdale said.
The governor acknowledged Tuesday that confronting the flooding “in the midst of a global pandemic is almost unthinkable.”
“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 in a news conference Tuesday night.
The Michigan Army National Guard is on site, with 100 soldiers doing inspections around the area, Whitmer said.
CNN’s Elizabeth Joseph, Rob Frehse, Michelle Krupa, Kristina Sgueglia, Ganesh Setty and Joe Sutton contributed to this report.