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As dams fail, Midland prepares for once in a 500-year flood

Aerial view of flooding in Midland
Wikipedia
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The City of Midland is evacuating a quarter of its residents in preparation for what officials say is a once in a 500-year flood. 

On Tuesday, two dams upstream of Midland failed leading city officials to call for the immediate evacuation of some 10,000 residents.  

Brad Kaye is the Midland City Manager. He said the highest flood levels the city has seen were 33 feet in 1986. 

“We are looking at flood heights that are approximately 4 ½ to 5 feet higher than the 1986 flood that we had, which is the highest we ever had in the city of Midland.”

That, according to Kaye, is extremely rare. 

“What we’re looking at is an event that is a 500-year flood. Something that is extremely catastrophic and quite dangerous.”

Residents are being directed to shelters at local high schools and family centers. Officials say the crest of the flood is expected around 8 AM. The flood may have long-term consequences. Kaye said the city has concerns about how the flood will impact city water systems. 

“The infrastructure that the city has lies in a river valley and it will be inundated. What that means is our water systems are potentially at risk, our sewage systems are potentially at risk, the pumps that operate these systems are at risk and they will be inundated if we get these flood levels.”

Just as the city began ramping up its early calls for evacuation, some city residents walked downtown to watch the progress of the Tittabawassee River. 

Jeff Forest is a Midland City Resident who lives ten blocks from the city's downtown. He said he is starting to worry that won’t be far enough. 

“What’s crazy is I work at Hampton Inn and I work there tonight. It’s off of Eastman on the other side of town. I haven’t really heard if it’s flooding or not.”

At that time the water was only just beginning to creep up towards main street in the city’s downtown. 

“If the dams go who knows how much water is going to flow in,” Forest said. “Where we’re standing we won’t be able to stand here in a few hours.”

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