About 10,000 people were told to evacuate from parts of Michigan after floodwaters caused two dams to fail following heavy rain across the state.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency Tuesday for Midland County after the Edenville and Sanford dams breached and warned that downtown Midland could be under 9 feet of water by Wednesday afternoon.
The dam collapses have led to impassable roads, a boil water advisory — and raised regulatory questions about Edenville Dam's hydro-power generating license. It was unclear whether there were any fatalities from the flooding.
Here's what you need to know about the flooding.
Which Michigan dams are failing and where are they?
Several dams upstream of Midland along the Tittabawassee had either been breached or were releasing water uncontrollably after after 4 to 7 inches of rain fell Sunday and Monday.
The Tittabawassee River in Midland entered major flood stage Tuesday morning when the river was observed at 28.25 feet at 10:15 a.m., according to the National Weather Service. Flood stage is 24 feet.
By Tuesday afternoon, at least two rivers in mid-Michigan — the Tittabawassee River in Midland and the Rifle River near Sterling — had reached their major flood stage.
The Edenville Dam on the Tittabawassee River, which is owned by Boyce Hydro, breached Tuesday evening. A flash flood warning issued by the National Weather Service warned to expect flooding of small creeks, streams and other low-lying areas.
The dam, which had its hydro-power generating license revoked in 2018 for its inability to withstand a major flood, is a 6,600-foot earthen embankment up to 54.5 feet in height, spanning both the Tittabawassee and Tobacco Rivers in Midland and Gladwin counties.
Water passing through the Edenville Dam breach headed downstream to Midland County's Sanford Lake, where the Sanford Dam, also owned by Boyce, was breached later in the day Tuesday. That dam lies south of Edenville and about 8 miles away from the city of Midland.
As of Wednesday morning, the Tittabawasse River hit a historic high, rising above its previous record in 1986, and reaching 34.6 feet. Major flood stage is 28 feet. By the end of the day, the National Weather Service forecasted it would be at 38 feet.
Traveling amid coronavirus: What does evacuating while social distancing look like?
Whitmer said parts of the city of Midland, the village of Sanford, Edenville Township and Dow Chemical had been or were being evacuated.
Whitmer said despite stay-at-home orders generally telling people not to travel, it was important that anyone living in the affected areas evacuate as quickly as possible to safer areas, or go to the homes of relatives and friends. Three shelters had opened in Midland County, as well.
"This is unlike anything we’ve seen before... but this is truly a historic event that's playing out in the midst of another historic event," Whitmer said, referring to the coronavirus pandemic which has led to stay-at-home orders throughout the state and the deaths of more than 5,000 people.
"Please do not hesitate. Go to stay with a friend or relative or go to one of these shelters now," she said, adding that even at a shelter, people should try to do the best they can to practice social distancing and wear a face covering to protect themselves and others from coronavirus.
What else is happening in Michigan?
Also Wednesday, a Michigan conservative group plans to protest Whitmer's stay-at-home order and the closure of barbershops and salons by giving free haircuts outside the state capitol in Lansing. The group will hold what it's calling Operation Haircut between noon and 3 p.m. outside the Capitol.
President Donald Trump is also scheduled to visit a Ford Motor plant in Ypsilanti on Thursday where workers are making ventilators during the coronavirus pandemic. Whitmer's office said the visit contradicts rules to combat the spread of coronavirus she put in place, but she will not try to stop it.
More Michigan dams crumbling
The failing Midland County dams are just the most high-profile examples of a chronic problem in Michigan: dams that are as aging and crumbling as Michigan's roads and bridges.
A 2018 report card on Michigan dams by the state chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers found that while the state had improved its D-grade from the society's 2009 report card, it still had persistent issues.
Since Sunday, flood warnings in Michigan were issued following widespread rainfall of 4 to 7 inches, according to the National Weather Service. Heavy runoff raises river levels, leading to dangerous flooding.
The Tittabawasse River is expected to reach 38 feet, more than 10 feet above major flood state, and surpassing the record set in 1986 when it hit 33.9 feet.
Back then, the Midland Daily News reported, the rain began on Sept. 9 and fell for days. The flooding ruined crops, destroyed homes, and was regarded by many as one of the state's worst natural disasters.
Part of the problem now, is that, in addition to sustained rainfall in the area, the river is swollen by massive downpours from north of Midland, which have swelled the rivers and creeks.
Still, National Weather Service forecasters said that a break from the rain until Saturday, when showers are expected, may give the state some time to allow waters to recede.
Next week, they said, could bring more rainfall.
Contributing: Frank Witsil, Detroit Free Press and The Associated Press