Whitmer expands mid-Michigan flood disaster area, adds Iosco County

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Debris backs up along the Sanford Dam on May 20, 2020 near the Village of Sanford, Mich. - David Guralnick/The Detroit News/TNS

DETROIT — Mid-Michigan’s emergency disaster area from last week’s flooding got bigger Wednesday, with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer adding Iosco County to Saginaw, Midland, Gladwin and Arenac counties.

Days of rainfall, followed by the failure of both the Edenville and Sanford dams, led to the evacuation of 10,000 Michiganders and the destruction of homes, roadways and bridges.

However, north of there, in Iosco County, residents said heavy rainfall — 8 inches or more — overflowed rivers, streams and lakes, causing flooding they had not seen before.

The floodwaters have largely receded, but they damaged about 100 homes, several roadways and a railroad line. The worst of it was in Tawas City and near Tawas Lake. There also was flooding at Tawas Point State Park.

“I’ve been in the fire service for 36 years, and chief for 15, and this is the worst flooding situation I’ve seen in my career — by far,” said Steve Masich, Tawas City’s fire chief. “It’s not as bad as Midland, but bad for our area.”

Whitmer said Wednesday she declared the emergency “to provide much-needed assistance” and added Iosco County, which is on Lake Huron directly north of Arenac County, to the emergency declaration “to ensure access to critical resources.”

Ed Rohn, the emergency management director for Iosco and Arenac counties, said the water levels were already high in the area, but with a sudden deluge of rain, the water had nowhere else to go.

“With all the lakes, stream, rivers filling up with water — which were already near the top of the banks — they were not able to drain out in Lake Huron,” he said. “That just magnified the situation of the storm.”

In addition to expanding the disaster area, a spate of lawsuits has been filed against the failed Edenville dam’s owner, Boyce Hydro, as well as Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy.

Plaintiff’s attorney Geoffrey Fieger has said he, too, expected to file lawsuits Wednesday against the state of Michigan in the Midland County Circuit Court and in the Court of Claims.

No casualties were reported during the flooding, but there were rescues — and frustrated and angry residents are seeking to clean up from the flood and repair the damage.

Most Midland County residents who could return home were given the all-clear Friday and have begun to file damage reports, a necessary step emergency management officials said will help determine the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s assistance.

Downtown Midland was submerged and floodwaters in the city mixed with Dow chemical company’s containment ponds.

The Four Lakes Task Force, an entity created by Gladwin and Midland counties that was in the process of purchasing the Boyce Hydro dams, said Tuesday the deal will not take place, and it is reassessing what to do.

In addition, Midland County Sheriff’s Office are asking residents to stay away from Wixom and Sanford lakes and the Edenville and Sanford dams, ordering them to stay off dry lake beds, dams and riverbanks.

There has been help, including a Louisiana couple who read about the flooding and drove 19 hours north on Memorial Day, with a U-Haul and truck full of clothes and cleaning supplies.

The couple had leftover donations after collecting to help five families left homeless by a 150-mph tornado at home. They also cooked up some Louisiana favorites, jambalaya and gumbo, for the flood victims.

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©2020 Detroit Free Press

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David Guralnick/The Detoit News/TNS
Daniel Mears/The Detoit News/TNS
Daniel Mears/The Detoit News/TNS
Daniel Mears/The Detoit News/TNS
David Guralnick/The Detoit News/TNS
Daniel Mears/The Detoit News/TNS
David Guralnick/The Detoit News/TNS
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