Muddy Flooding and Dam Failures in Michigan

May 22, 2020

Muddy Flooding and Dam Failures in Michigan

On May 17, 2020, heavy rain began pouring over the Tri-Cities region of central Michigan and, after two days, it provoked significant flooding in Midland County. The accumulating rainfall led to catastrophic dam failures that swelled rivers and streams and inundated several nearby communities. The governor ordered more than 10,000 residents of Edenville and Sanford to evacuate.

This natural-color image shows flooding across Midland County on May 20th, 2020 as observed by the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8. Credit: NASA Earth Observatory

This natural-color image shows flooding across Midland County, Michigan on May 20th, 2020 as observed by the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8. Credit: NASA Earth Observatory

The National Weather Service reported record rainfall where more than 4 inches (10 centimeters) fell across parts of Midland in 48 hours. The Edenville Dam then collapsed on the evening of May 19, sending floodwaters south across the landscape. About an hour later, water spilled over the Sanford Dam and further flooded the Tittabawassee River and the surrounding area.

On May 20, the Tittabawassee River reached a height just over 35 feet (11 meters)—about four feet higher than levels in the devastating 1986 floods. The governor has declared a state of emergency.