EDENVILLE, Mich. (AP) — People living along two lakes and a river in mid-Michigan rushed to evacuate Tuesday after the breach of a dam following days of heavy flooding across parts of the Midwest.
Two schools were opened for evacuees in the Midland area, about 140 miles north of Detroit, after the breach of Edenville Dam, which holds back Wixom Lake.
Red Cross worker Tom Restgate, who had been helping residents of the area seek shelter from the threat of rising waters, said he received an alert over his cellphone that “the dam … it breached.”
Residents in a span of several miles were urged to evacuate. Officials also were watching the Sanford Dam south of Edenville. The city of Midland, which includes the main plant of Dow Chemical, sits on the banks of the Tittabawassee River about 8 miles away from that dam.
More than 50 roads have been closed in the area. The evacuations in Michigan followed days of heavy rains in parts of the Midwest that also brought flooding to Chicago and other parts of Illinois, Ohio and other states.
“The water is very high,” Catherine Sias, who lives about a mile from the Edenville Dam, said before the breach. “Last night, emergency responders came door-to-door to make sure everybody got out. We have mild flooding every year, but this is unusual.”
Sias, 45, has five cats and two dogs and was about to check into a hotel that allowed pets when she learned it was probably safe for people not living in low-lying areas to return home.
“I’m on the high bank, about 20 feet up,” she said. “A lot of people are having a harder time. Most of them are going to be dealing with flooding in their homes.”
Some residents, such as Jon St. Croix, went to shelters set up in area schools.
“We were laying in bed when I heard sirens,” St. Croix told the Midland Daily News. “A fire truck was driving around, broadcasting that (we needed) to evacuate. It’s a scary thing — you’re sleeping and awake to sirens.”
St. Croix, 62, his wife and a next-door neighbor were among more than a dozen people sheltering in one school. Their home was not flooded, but St. Croix said he had seen flooding in the area.
Volunteers at the schools said about 120 vehicles were in the parking lots of a couple of schools and about 30 people had been staying on cots inside, according to WNEM-TV.
About a dozen people hunkered down overnight at a school in Sanford but had left by early Tuesday afternoon, said Tom Restgate, an American Red Cross safety officer.
The cots inside the school were spread out to observe social distancing recommendations to fight the spread of the COVID-19 virus, Restgate said.
Heavy rains also caused flooding in parts of northwestern Indiana, including Crown Point — the Lake County seat — where about seven inches fell over the weekend.