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Amid cleanup, flooding in Michigan prompts more evacuations

In this Wednesday, May 20, 2020, photo, people survey the flood damage to the Curtis Road Bridge in Edenville, Mich., over the Tittabawassee River. The bridge sits just south of Wixom Lake where the dams failed. (Neil Blake/The Grand Rapids Press via AP)

SPAULDING TOWNSHIP, Mich. — Another round of evacuations took place Friday in Central Michigan further downriver from two dams that were overwhelmed earlier this week by floodwaters, allowing torrents of water to gorge a river.

About a dozen people in Spaulding Township have been evacuated, others left their homes on their own and some refused to leave despite warnings, Fire Chief Tom Fortier said Friday morning.

Flooding was occurring along the Tittabawassee and Shiawassee rivers that flow into the Saginaw River, which is backing up with water.

Saginaw County’s Spaulding Township is about 100 miles (160 kilometres) north of Detroit and southeast of the Edenville and Sanford dams that were overwhelmed Tuesday night after heavy rains. The flooding forced about 11,000 people in the Midland area to evacuate their homes.

A number of homes were damaged, but no injuries have been reported.

President Donald Trump on Thursday signed an emergency declaration authorizing the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to co-ordinate disaster relief efforts.

Midland, which includes the headquarters of Dow Chemical Co., was hard-hit. The floodwaters mixed with containment ponds at a Dow Chemical Co. plant and could displace sediment from a downstream Superfund site, though the company said there was no risk to people or the environment.

Midland City Manager Brad Kaye warned that it could take four or five days for the floodwaters to recede.

“A lot of that water has come down to the Saginaw River,” said Fortier, adding that the flow is bottle-necking in the Saginaw River and pushing water back into Spaulding Township.

“The river levels are so high they are trying to find the lowest spot and that happens to be us,” he said.

Over the past day or so, the National Guard and fire departments have helped fill upward of 3,000 sandbags to hold some of the water back, but in some areas it still is 4 to 5 feet (1.2 to 1.5 metres) deep, Fortier said.

Wixom Lake in Midland County’s Hope Township lost most of its water when the nearly century-old Edenville Dam failed. The dam has been the target of lengthy investigations by federal regulators.

Officials have said the Sanford Dam, built in 1925, was overflowing during the flooding but the extent of structural damage wasn’t yet known.

The Associated Press