Residential neighborhoods filled with floodwater, a university football field turned into an island, and more devastation were captured in new satellite images from Wednesday that show the extent of flooding in central Michigan.
Officials said the Tittabawassee River crested Wednesday night at just over 35 feet in the city of Midland, about 3 feet below the forecast level after floodwaters overtook two dams and forced the evacuation of about 10,000 people from their homes.
Midland officials urged residents not to return yet, with Midland County Board of Commissioners Chairman Mark Bone saying Wednesday that the river won’t drop to the 24-foot flood stage until “the end of the weekend or later during Memorial Day.”
“It’s essentially a mess out there, and it isn’t safe to drive around barriers or travel on the roads that are deemed closed,” he told reporters. “Everybody please stay safe and do your best out there and we’ll get through this.”
Satellite imagery collected by Maxar shows the extent of the expanding floodwaters near Midland.
The images show flooded streets and homes in residential areas.
A close-up shows Windover High School in West Midland, with a flooded playground visible amidst the floodwaters.
The campus of Northwood University can be seen with floodwaters encroaching, making the school’s football field an island surrounded by brown water.
Other impacted areas along the swollen Tittabasassee River and the communities to the west of Midland also can be seen in the images released by Maxar.
Midland City Manager Brad Kaye said that flood heights reached that of a “500-year flood.” The United States Geological Survey (USGS) says that a “500-year-flood” means there’s a 0.002 percent chance — 1 in 500 — of it occurring in a given year.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who declared a state of emergency in Midland County, went to Midland Wednesday afternoon and followed up with President Trump soon after, requesting federal aid to help residents.
“I think, like everyone, it was hard to believe we’re in the midst of a 100-year crisis, a global pandemic and we’re also dealing with a flooding event that looks to be the worse in 500 years,” she said.
As of Thursday morning, no deaths or injuries have been reported due to the flooding in Michigan. There is some concern that the floodwaters are mixing with containment ponds at a Dow Chemical Co. plant and could displace sediment from a downstream Superfund site, though the company said there was no risk to people or the environment.
Dow told FOX2 in a statement the ponds hold only water, and it has not detected chemical releases from the plant in Midland where the company was founded, though the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said state officials would evaluate the plant when it is able.
Once the flooding recedes, Dow will be required to assess the Superfund site — contaminated with dioxins the company dumped in the last century — to determine if any contamination was released, the EPA said.
Residents near the river were urged to seek higher ground following what the National Weather Service (NWS) called “catastrophic dam failures” at the Edenville Dam, about 20 miles northwest of Midland, and the Sanford Dam, about 8 miles downriver.
Midland City Manager Brad Kaye said Wednesday that the Sanford Dam is overflowing, but that the extent of structural damage isn’t yet known.
In 2018, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) revoked Boyce Hydro’s license to operate the Edenville Dam due to non-compliance issues that included spillway capacity and the inability to pass the most severe flood reasonably possible. That year, the state rated the dam, built in 1924, in unsatisfactory condition.
Whitmer said the state would investigate the operators of the dams and “pursue every line of legal recourse we have.”
“The initial readout is that this was a known problem for a while and that’s why it’s important that we do our due diligence,” Whitmer said Wednesday.
Fox News’ Nick Givas and The Associated Press contributed to this report.