Residents See Their Lives Changed by Midland-Area Dam Failures

What do the dam failures in Edenvile and Sanford Lake mean for these communities going forward?

About 10,000 people were forced to evacuate the Midland region of Michigan — about a quarter of the population. Almost 1,000 additional residents in nearby townships were also ordered to leave their homes.

Officials said they expect it will be days before the waters recede to normal levels. They’re warning residents it could take several days until they can return home. Once residents are allowed to go home, it is still unknown what kind of devastation they may find.

Beyond the initial impact of forced evacuation and flooding, here is a list of how the dam failures are affecting the residents of the Midland region.

Road and Bridge Closures

Local news stations report that more than 20 state trunkline and local agency bridges were affected by flooding and will require “extensive inspections prior to reopening to the public.” Several bridges have also suffered damage that will need to be repaired before reopening.

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) is tracking all road and bridge closures on a map here. MDOT, which is monitoring all high-water situations and how they impact roads and bridges, expects more closures.

MDOT Bay Region Engineer Robert Ranck Jr. told WKZO that many of these bridges won’t reopen in the next week. He added that the department is working to establish emergency contracts to begin inspections and repairs to structures as soon as water levels recede enough to allow that work.

Sewer Disruption

Some areas of the Midland Michigan region are experiencing sanitary sewer outages as a result of the flooding conditions, local media reports.

The City of Midland’s website reported that five sanitary sewer pump stations operated by the city’s wastewater treatment plant were overtaken by flood waters. The city has a map that shows the locations of these pump stations and their service areas.

Sewer backups containing storm water and sanitary wastewater may occur for residents in the impacted areas.

The city warned that residents in those areas would not be allowed to return home until service at the pump stations is restored.

Social Distancing and Shelters

Perhaps the biggest impact of the forced evacuation is that, although warranted, it takes away residents’ safe place during a pandemic.

Governor Whitmer encouraged residents to wear masks and practice social distancing, even if they were forced to evacuate. She also acknowledged that social distancing could be difficult for evacuees — especially if they were housed in the shelters set up in the area.

Shelters have opened at several high schools, including Midland High School, Bullock Creek High School, and Coleman Community High School. Another shelter was set up at The West and North Midland Family Centers.