Rising floodwaters unleashed by two dam failures submerged parts of the central Michigan town of Midland on Wednesday, displacing thousands of residents and spreading into a Dow Chemical Co plant in the riverfront city.
By late morning, the company said, floodwaters were confirmed to be “comingling with on-site containment ponds” at the sprawling Dow plant, located just upstream from a Superfund hazardous waste cleanup site on the rain-swollen Tittabawassee River.
The National Weather Service (NWS) warned of “life-threatening” flooding as the Tittabawassee rose to historic levels.
Parts of Midland, a city of some 42,000 residents about 120 miles (193 km) northwest of Detroit, were submerged under 5 feet (1.5 m) of water before the river crested a few feet lower than expected.
Mark Bone, chairman of the Midland County Board of Commissioners, said no injuries had been reported. But the flood posed a major logistical challenge to authorities already coping with the coronavirus pandemic, and Governor Gretchen Whitmer called for federal assistance.
Some 10,000 people were evacuated throughout Midland County, Whitmer said, after days of heavy rain caused the Tittabawassee to overflow its banks and breach the Edenville and Sanford dams on Tuesday.
“Experts are describing this as a 500-year event,” Whitmer told a news conference after a tour of the flood zone. She urged residents of low-lying areas to seek higher ground.