Midland's Tittabawassee River on decline but 'wet period' forecast for next week

Midland's stretch of the Tittabawassee River is on the decline from its historic high point of 35.05 feet reached Wednesday afternoon, but the waterway is still well above the flood stage early Thursday at 32.7 feet, according to the National Weather Service.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Thursday she sent a letter to President Donald Trump requesting a federal emergency declaration she hopes he'll sign Thursday when he visits the Rawsonville Ford plant.

Connie Methner, owner of CJ's Hairstyling, wades through the mud covering the inside of her salon in Sanford on May 21, 2020. The village was hit especially hard by floodwaters after the Sanford dam failed two days earlier.

Whitmer traveled to Midland on Wednesday to survey the damage and said, "it's truly remarkable how much damage we have sustained."

"This is truly a crisis in the middle of a crisis," Whitmer said Thursday morning. "If you are one of the residents in the impacted area, especially if you're in a shelter, please take precautions to protect yourself... we don't want COVID-19 to grow especially in a region where we've had to move people around so much."

The weather Thursday and Friday is expected to be dry, but the area could be in for a "wet period" over much of the next week.

Cory Behnke, a National Weather Service meteorologist, said there is a chance of rain Saturday afternoon and during the day Sunday, but that conditions indicate a "wet period" for much of next week. 

"It's too early," Behnke said, to say just how much rain might fall.

But southeast Michigan is headed for a warm pattern, with humid air. A high-pressure system from the southeast United States is headed this way, along with "persistent" southwest winds.

As for the river, it's projected to be in flood stage, or above 24 feet, through mid-day Sunday, and won't fall out of "action stage," or below 18 feet, until mid-day Tuesday, according to a National Weather Service hydrology map. 

The high river overpowered two dams, Edenville and Sanford, in the area on Tuesday, displacing some 11,000 people.

No casualties or serious injuries have been reported.

It's possible Midland won't reach the 24-foot flood stage until the end of the weekend or Memorial Day, officials said.

City Manager Brad Kaye said the Midland is cautiously optimistic but expects to be above average for at least four to five days.

"This came up quickly, but it's not going to go away quickly," Kaye said during a press conference late Wednesday. "Getting back to our normal levels are more like eight to 12 feet. Four to five days out, we're still going to be above normal."

This clearly isn't over, Kaye reiterated.

The next phase the city is focusing on is damage assessment, he said. Bridges and roads need to be inspected before barriers can be removed.

"Don't rush out thinking you can rush back in. The water is still there. Most homes that are flooded will be flooded for a good period of time," he said. "We can't even consider reopening most of these until we drop to 24 feet, which likely won't be until Saturday night."

Officials don't want to place blame saying, "this was a 500-year flood" no one could have predicted, but the city planned exercises in September for potential failures.

More:Stunned evacuees face 'unthinkable' flood damage

Whitmer has sought federal aid as the Midland area tries to rebuild from a 500-year flood that comes during a 100-year pandemic, as she phrased it. 

The Michigan Department of Transportation's Bay Region, which serves Midland, says 11 state roads and bridges remain closed in the area.