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Michigan will 'hold people responsible' for dam failures, Whitmer says

Frank Witsil, Detroit Free Press on

Published in Weather News

Speaking outside Midland High School, where mid-Michigan residents had sought shelter from two dam failures, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer sought to reassure residents that help was on the way, and that, so far, there were no known casualties.

"What I can tell you, you've already seen from the pictures," she said after taking an aerial tour of the area. "It's devastating."

The rising waters, she said, are damaging, and had forced the evacuation of thousands who were caught in the path of the floodwaters that are still rising and expected to crest at about 8 p.m.

She also made it clear that the state would be investigating what happened to cause the dams to fail. Regulators had revoked the Edenville dam's license in 2018 over an ability to handle big floods.

Whitmer said the dam failures were a known threat and the state will be reviewing "every legal recourse that we have" because the damage requires that we "hold people responsible."

But the governor also said "even in the hardest-hit spots there are sources of inspiration," praising the work of first responders, volunteers, and residents who acted quickly to get out of their homes.

 

About 130 National Guard soldiers and more than 40 specialized vehicles were dispatched on Tuesday to help, with more than 200 more on the way.

Still, the timing of the flooding is especially precarious. It comes amid a pandemic that has taken the lives of more than 5,000 Michiganders and left about a third of the state's workforce unemployed.

On Tuesday, the rapidly rising water overtook dams, and forced about 10,000 people in central Michigan, sending them to shelters and to stay with relatives, potentially adding to the spread of coronavirus.

Wednesday, rainfall -- combined with dam overflows -- caused the waters of the Tittabawassee River, surpassing the high point of 33.9 feet in 1986, what the Midland Daily News said some called the state's worst natural disaster in modern history.

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