WEST BLOOMFIELD: More Central Michigan riverside residents evacuated their homes on Friday after being overwhelmed by flooding from two failed dams that submerged communities further upstream earlier this week, authorities said.

About a dozen people who live near the Tittabawassee River in Spaulding Township have evacuated, but some in the community refused to leave their homes despite warnings, Fire Chief Tom Fortier said.

Fields and roads were under several feet of water, resembling wide, shallow lakes. Water stood 2 to 3 feet (0.6 to 1 meter) deep in some houses where the owners decided to stick out the flooding, Fortier said. The Tittabawassee became engorged late on Tuesday when the aging Edenville and Sanford dams failed after heavy rain. The river crested Wednesday in Midland about 20 miles (32 kilometres) upstream from Spaulding Township leaving the small city and surrounding areas under several feet of water and forcing about 11,000 people to evacuate their homes.

A number of homes in Midland were damaged, but no injuries or fatalities were reported. Officials were not keeping track of how many people have returned home.

We’ve cleared all to return if they are able to do so safely, Selina Tisdale, a spokeswoman for Midland, said.

With the slow recession of water in the Midland area, the focus has shifted to damage assessment, cleanup and rebuilding.

Glenn Harts home in Hope Township, about 16 miles (25 kilometres) north of Midland, escaped the brunt of the flooding. But on Friday, the 66-year-old was removing debris from his property, including kayaks, boats and pieces of docks.

I’m trying to find who this belongs to, to make sure people get their stuff, he said.

He will be without natural gas for at least two weeks, but Hart has an electric water heater in a barn that escaped damage. Everybody is coming to my house to take a shower, he said.

President Donald Trump signed an emergency declaration authorising the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate disaster relief efforts.

Dow Chemical Co. is headquartered in Midland and it has a plant next to the river. The company’s imprint is clear throughout the city.

When the river crested, the floodwaters mixed with containment ponds at the Dow plant and the company admitted the flooding could displace sediment from a downstream Superfund site, though it said there was no risk to people or the environment.

The US Environmental Protection Agency said state officials would evaluate the plant and that Dow must to assess the Superfund site contaminated with dioxins the company dumped in the last century to determine if any contamination was released.

Published in Dawn, May 23rd, 2020