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Midland digs out from 'sobering' flood damage

Evan James Carter
The Detroit News

Days after historic flooding that saw Midland's Tittabawassee River crest at a record 35 feet, officials are assessing what city manager Brad Kaye called "sobering" damage and bringing critical infrastructure back online.

Speaking at a press conference Friday, Kaye and officials from Midland County advised residents that even as the floodwaters recede, they remain dangerous and urged them not to wade in the water or drive around roadblocks.

Kaye said he flew over the city earlier Friday and was stunned by the level of destruction.

"I observed people out in their yards, with much of the contents of their home out in the yard, much of it damaged," Kaye said. "I saw houses that the foundation is literally 60 feet from where the house is."

The Edenville Dam, at the border of Midland and Gladwin counties, failed Tuesday afternoon and caused water to flow over and around a second dam, the Sanford Dam, downstream in the Tittabawassee River.

President Donald Trump on Thursday approved an emergency declaration sought by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, authorizing the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate disaster relief efforts in Michigan. U.S. Rep. John Moolenaar, R-Midland, said FEMA will have staff on the ground Saturday to do assessments. 

Kaye said conversations with Consumers Energy indicated that power to Midland's downtown, out since Tuesday, would be returned in "a very short time."

Utility workers survey the M-30 washed out bridge over the Tittabawassee River in Edenville.

The city manager also said curbside waste pick-up and landfill access was being expanded so residents can put damaged items on the side of the road. Kaye also warned that the city considers the curbside waste to be contaminated and is enacting an anti-scavenging ordinance.

Jennifer Boyer, emergency management coordinator for Midland County, encouraged residents to fill out damage assement forms to help officials assess the damage and apply for state and federal assistance.

The city has brought back online three of the five waste water pumps that failed earlier in the week, Kaye said. There are no longer any residences without sewer service, the city said.

The city also announced it has begun closing shelters that were opened for residents forced out of their homes by the flooding. The shelters at Midland High School, West Midland Family Center and North Midland Family Center are still open.

Kaye added that volunteers were able to save every single piece of the roughly $2 million worth of materials being stored in the lower level of Midland's public library, including "every printed edition of the Midland Daily News ever written."

Riverside Place, which is an independent living facility for seniors that is owned and operated by the city, sustained water damages on the first and fourth levels. The city is advising that residents will not be able to return for some time.

ecarter@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @EvanJamesCarter