DETROIT -- Urging residents to evacuate and saying downtown Midland could be under nine feet of water by Wednesday afternoon, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer late Tuesday declared a state of emergency for Midland County after the Edenville and Sanford dams breached.
Speaking during a press conference late Tuesday, Whitmer said parts of the city of Midland, the village of Sanford and Edenville and Dow Chemical had been evacuated.
"This is unlike anything we've seen before ... but this is truly a historic event that's playing out in the midst of another historic event," Whitmer said, referring to the coronavirus pandemic which has led to stay-at-home orders throughout the state.
She said that despite those orders generally telling people to stay home, it was important that anyone living in the affected areas evacuate as quickly as possible to safer areas, or go to the homes of relatives and friends. She also said shelters have opened at area schools.
The dams were breached earlier Tuesday following several days of rainfall, forcing the evacuation of thousands of people in mid-Michigan.
Emergency responders were going door-to-door early Tuesday morning warning residents living near the Edenville Dam of the rising water, the Associated Press reported. Some residents were able to return home, only to be told to leave again following the dam's breach.
The Sanford Dam was breached later in the day Tuesday.
Whitmer said she had activated the National Guard and Guardsmen were on the scene already. Helicopters were being used to try to find the best way to evacuate people as well. She also said she would turn to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for help as quickly as she could.
For now, however, she said it was urgent that people get out of harm's way.
"Please do not hesitate. Go to stay with a friend or relative or go to one of these shelters now," she said, adding that even at a shelter, people should try to do the best they can to practice social distancing and wear a face covering to protect themselves and others from coronavirus.
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