Catastrophic flooding in Midland County prompted 11,000 people to be evacuated, and numerous road and bridge closures on Wednesday, May 20. Neighboring Saginaw County saw damage and evacuations, too.
(TNS) – Catastrophic flooding in Midland County prompted 11,000 people to be evacuated, numerous road and bridge closures and a visit from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Wednesday, May 20. Neighboring Saginaw County saw damage and evacuations, too.
Experts have called it a 500-year flood event.
Midland and Saginaw counties weren’t the only ones to suffer flood-related damage this week. Arenac County declared a state of emergency after severe flooding harmed infrastructure and property. The northern Michigan county has 50 bridges under repair assessments and preliminary damage cost assessments could exceed $2.25 million, The Arenac County Independent reports.
Arenac County, located on Lake Huron’s Saginaw Bay, has a population of about 15,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The county seat, Standish, is located about 30 miles north of Bay City.
Standish City Manager Jerry Nelson said the city received about 6.5 inches of rain and hundreds of homes were flooded. Flooding primarily affected basements, but some residents experienced main-floor flooding, too. One resident with a finished basement estimates the flood caused $50,000 in damage. Many lost major appliances, including washers and dryers, freezers and water heaters, and most of the residents Nelson has spoken with are learning their homeowners insurance won’t cover the damages.
“We probably had somewhere between 150 and 200 homes that had basements that were flooded," Nelson said Thursday, May 21, noting that Standish has a total of about 750 to 800 homes and 1,500 residents. “Most of the people I talked to (said) it’s not being covered because most people don’t have flood insurance because it’s so expensive.”
Nelson said some residents will struggle to afford to replace their damaged property. One woman he spoke with lost her furnace, water heater and freezer totaling thousands of dollars in damages.
“She was going to put everything on her credit card and she was going to max it out because she had no other choice,” he said.
Jacquob Littlejohn, 23, of Standish was displaced by the flood and is staying with family in Gladwin until he can safely return home. He had seven feet of water in his basement and one wall caved in. His furnace, water heater, washer, dryer and breaker box were all submerged. He doesn’t have flood insurance.
“Where I live, I was told I don’t need flood insurance. I’m not in the flood zone,” he said. “We’re looking at thousands and thousands of dollars that’s going to have to come out of my pocket.”
An Arenac County sheriff’s deputy and member of the National Guard, Littlejohn said he never expected to be in this situation.
“I thought when something like this happened I’d be the one evacuating people, not the one being evacuated,” Littlejohn said Thursday, May 21.
Littlejohn, who was speaking as a citizen and not in any official capacity, said his neighbors’ homes also flooded and one family with a baby had to be evacuated by boat. He’s thankful no one was hurt and that he has family members who can help him rebuild.
“I understand Midland got hit horribly, horribly bad and I feel so sorry for them, but I hope we aren’t forgotten in the mix,” he said. “It’s a tragedy.”
Nelson urged anyone who has suffered flood damage to call Standish City Hall at 989-846-9588 to speak with him or Clerk/Treasurer Peggy Burtch. Nelson said city officials are collecting information and damage estimates to provide to state officials. In addition, Arenac County Emergency Management Director Ed Rohn is assisting Michigan State Police in assessing damage throughout the county, he said.
Despite widespread flooding and damage in Standish, no injuries were reported.
“Property, you can always replace or get back. People you can’t," Nelson said.
Arenac County emergency officials shared a map of flooding and road closures Wednesday night via the Arenac County Facebook page. The map highlighted numerous road closures throughout the county, including in Standish, Arenac, Clayton, Sims, Mason, Deep River, Moffatt, Turner and Lincoln townships. In addition, Nelson said, the bridge in Omer, which serves as a main thoroughfare to get up through the northeast side of the state, is expected to be closed through the weekend.
And the Arenac County Sheriff’s Department shared a photo of one of its sergeants carrying a child to safety from a flooded apartment complex in AuGres where nearly 40 residents and pets were evacuated by officials with the sheriff’s office and AuGres police and fire departments.
Nearby Gladwin County also dealt with a deluge of water from the flooding event, with numerous roads throughout the county affected by floodwaters.
The area near the Chappel Dam, which holds back Wiggins Lake, in Gladwin County was under the pressure of potential flash flooding earlier this week. Gladwin County Emergency Management on Monday, May 18, ordered residents near the Cedar River, south of Chappel Dam and along the Tittabawassee River to evacuate. The order included the southern and northwestern portions of the city of Gladwin. Residents were directed to evacuation centers, including the Gladwin Save-A-Lot and Fruchey Family Market parking lot and Grace Christian Church. The area received three to four inches of rain by Monday night.
The National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning alert for the Cedar River/Chappel Dam area, indicating the situation was particularly dangerous. It read, “Move to higher ground now. This is an extremely dangerous and life-threatening situation. Do not attempt to travel unless you are fleeing an area subject to flooding or under an evacuation order. Be especially cautious at night when it is harder to recognize the dangers of flooding.”
On Tuesday, May 19, the Gladwin County Sheriff’s Office was advising residents and travelers to avoid the area of Gladwin County near the Midland County line on M-30 near Stryker’s Lakeside Marina. M-30 was reported to have water and debris covering the road.
M-30 remains closed to both northbound and southbound traffic between Curtis and Dale roads, near Wixom Lake, according to the Michigan Department of Transportation. East Townline Road 16, which straddles the boarder between Midland and Gladwin counties, is also reported to be closed.
Gladwin County also has a comprehensive list of closures to help residents as they plan their travels throughout the area and MDOT has an interactive map detailing road closures in areas affected by flooding.
On Wednesday, Gladwin County officials urged residents to remove their boats and personal watercraft from the Tittabawassee River, Smallwood Lake and Secord Lake to allow Boyce Hydro to inspect the dams along the waterways. Boyce Hydro, the same company that owns the Edenville Dam, has come under scrutiny after news reports revealed federal energy regulators pulled the dam’s operator’s license in 2018 out of concern the spillway couldn’t pass enough water to avert a failure during a historic flood.
Officials have asked residents to move their boats as soon as possible, as water levels were expected to begin receding at 8 a.m. Thursday.
“At this time, there is not a determined date in which the water levels can be restored to seasonal levels, due to the possible need for repairs after the inspections are complete,” Gladwin County officials said in a statement.
Gladwin County officials also compiled a list of resources from the Department of Insurance and Financial Services to help residents as they begin working with insurance companies to file claims and repair damages.
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