Satellite image 2020 Maxar Technologies/Handout via REUTERS
- On Tuesday, the Edenville and Sanford dams collapsed in central Michigan, sending a massive amount of floodwater into nearby towns in Midland County.
- Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency, and over 10,000 residents were evacuated as the National Weather Service warned that up to 9 feet of water could reach Midland.
- Reports have shown the Edenville Dam had its power generation license revoked in 2018 due to longstanding safety violations.
- No fatalities have been recorded and the extent of the damage so far is unknown, but these satellite photos reveal just how much flooding occurred.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Massive amounts of floodwater hit nearby towns after two dams collapsed in central Michigan on Tuesday.
The Edenville Dam was the first to fail, sending a surge of water into streets, homes, and businesses, and leading to the collapse of the Sanford Dam located on the Tittabawassee River.
By Wednesday, surrounding towns were submerged, and the National Weather Service issued a warning for residents of Midland County to evacuate amid concerns that up to 9 feet of flooding could hit the area.
Satellite image (c) 2020 Maxar Technologies
As many as 10,000 people and 3,500 homes were affected by the evacuations, as people fled to nearby schools and family centers for shelter.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency, and 130 soldiers from the Michigan National Guard were sent in to help police evacuate residents on Wednesday.
Though the full extent of the damage is not yet known, satellite photos show just how much flooding occurred throughout the region.
The floodwater knocked over power lines, submerged cars, and overtook entire streets. Residents located near the Tittabawassee River were told to seek higher ground as torrents of water ravaged through the area.
Trump declares state of emergency as Michigan floodwaters recede
DETROIT (Reuters) – Floodwaters that breached two dams in central Michigan began to recede on Thursday after displacing thousands of people while spreading to a Dow Chemical plant and an adjacent hazardous waste cleanup site.
U.S. President Donald Trump, acting at the request of Governor Gretchen Whitmer, issued an emergency declaration authorizing federal disaster relief to victims of severe storms that struck Michigan this week in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
Flooding unleashed by two dam failures on Tuesday plunged parts of the riverfront city of Midland, about 120 miles (193 km) northwest of Detroit, under several feet of water and forced the evacuation of about 11,000 residents.
The torrent also posed a potential environmental hazard as floodwaters spilled into a Dow Chemical Co plant, mixing with the contents of a containment pond there, and swept a Superfund toxic cleanup site located just downstream.
Dow, a unit of Dow Inc <DOW.N>, said in a statement on Thursday that the brine solution in the pond posed no risk to residents or the environment, and no „product releases” from the plant were known to have occurred.
The rain-engorged Tittabawassee River rose to historic levels on Wednesday before starting to recede the next day, leaving a ravaged landscape of mud and debris. No deaths or serious injuries were reported.
„This is unlike everything we’ve seen before. The damage is truly devastating,” Whitmer told a news conference on Thursday.
Trump, visiting a newly reopened Ford Motor Co <F.N> automobile factory in Detroit on Thursday, said a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers team was on the scene of the dam breaks to help assess damage and bring the situation under control.
Mark Bone, a Midland County commissioner, said floodwaters must ebb further before it was safe for evacuees to return home.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission directed Boyce Hydro LLC, operator of the stricken dams, to establish an independent investigation of the breaches. The agency in 2018 revoked the hydropower-generating license for one of the dams, accusing Boyce of deficiencies.
Boyce said in statements that it had been in conflict with federal and local authorities in recent years over how much water the dams should release and the levels of a nearby lake.
The company also said that since losing its license, it was unable to secure funding for dam improvements and received no government assistance.
(Reporting by Maria Caspani in New York and Rich McKay in Atlanta; additional reporting by Rajesh Kumar Singh in Chicago and Ben Klayman in Detroit; Editing by Bill Tarrant, Paul Simao and Lisa Shumamker)
There was real concern – and good reasons for it – earlier this year about the potential for a prolonged 2020 California wildfire season. The state’s peak wildfire season typically runs from May through October, but wildfires can occur at any time.
„The combination of a very dry January and an even drier February resulted in one of the driest first two months of any calendar year on record across much of southwestern California,” according to a statement from the National Weather Service’s Los Angeles forecast office at the time.
San Francisco, San Jose, Sacramento and Redding, California, all had no rainfall for the entire month of February, breaking long-standing records. It was the first rain-free February for downtown San Francisco since 1864.
A state of emergency was declared by California governor Gavin Newsome on March 22 due to a „vast tree die-off throughout the state, which increased the risk of wildfires.” The Department of Forestry and Fire protection singled out 35 „priority projects” that covered collectively approximately 90,000 acres and would „help reduce the wildfire risk for more than 200 communities.”
The state got a slight reprieve, however, thanks to rains in March and April. There have been 17 fire incidents so far this year, with the largest being the Interstate 5 fire covering 2,060 acres. For comparison, at this time, there were 13 in 2019, which was a relatively mild wildfire season, but there were 30 in 2018 and 36 in 2017, two of the largest, most destructive and deadliest seasons in the state’s history.
„Last year was a very tame wildfire season, especially compared to the previous two years,” said AccuWeather senior meteorologist Brian Thompson. „Even 2015 and 2016 were more active.”
California is the top state in the U.S. for extreme wildfires with an estimate of more than 2 million properties at risk. During the 2019 California wildfire season, a total of 259,823 acres were burned, while the totals were 1.8 million acres in 2018 and 1.3 million acres in 2017.
So what’s ahead for 2020? „The initial conditions certainly raise some cause for concern,” Thompson said.
„Southern California’s late wet season and precipitation will hold any drought back until late summer, but the Southwest monsoon moisture can extend back into the region in late July or August,” said AccuWeather Lead Long-Range Meteorologist Paul Pastelok. „Drier-than-normal conditions for Northern California can lead to fires breaking out in June, with more widespread activity mid- to late summer.”
The United States Drought Monitor shows parts of Northern California experiencing moderate or severe drought conditions, with a small section of the far northern part of the state dealing with extreme drought conditions.
|Flames from a backfire consume a hillside as firefighters battle the Maria Fire in Santa Paula, Calif., on Friday, Nov. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)|
„Northern California had some rain recently, but that’s probably where there are going to be bad wildfire conditions,” said AccuWeather Meteorologist Dave Samuhel. „Southern California had so much rain in April, so that shouldn’t be a problem for now.”
The AccuWeather summer forecast calls for a hot and dry summer in the West, which means an increased chance for offshore wind events – leading to days of high fire dangers, according to AccuWeather meteorologists.
„In Central and Southern California, we expect the biggest wildfire threat to come later in the summer and into the fall, which would fall in line with climatology,” Thompson said. „However, if the heat early in the summer is persistent and/or extreme, then the fire threat may rise faster during the first half of the summer.”
Keep checking back on AccuWeather.com and stay tuned to the AccuWeather Network on DirecTV, Frontier and Verizon Fios.
A severe storm toppled trees onto homes and power lines in Charlotte’s Elizabeth neighborhood Friday. Mecklenburg and surrounding counties remained under a threat of possible tornadoes and flooding into the night.
Duke Energy reported 64,600 Mecklenburg County customers without power at 5:30 p.m.
Ten giant willow oaks fell on East 5th Street between Laurel Avenue and Osborne Avenue, according to Donna Bise, who has lived on East 5th Street for 40 years. Seven homes were damaged, she said, while hers was spared.
“We had a tornado warning,” Bise told The Charlotte Observer. “ The winds were swirling right down the street, and everybody took to the center of their homes. It was fast, and it was furious.”
A 100-year-old giant oak totaled neighbor Maria Cohen’s Dodge Caravan — “like a pancake,” Cohen said. The tree also claimed some of the roof above the front porch of the house where she and her husband, Arthur, have lived for 14 years.
Cohen said she received the tornado warning on her phone but still went outside to check what was happening. “Then I heard the tree start to uproot from the ground, and I immediately went inside to the back of the basement.”
She didn’t budge for 15 minutes, until someone kept banging on the door and asking if she was OK.
The storm struck just after 4:30 p.m. A tornado warning issued for Charlotte expired at about that time.
A large tree also fell on a home on East Boulevard near Freedom Park, and a tree limb knocked down a power line at South Kings Drive and East Boulevard, Observer news partner WBTV reported.
Two lanes of Park Road were blocked after a tree toppled power lines near Holy Trinity Middle School, according to the station.
The storm was among a line of severe thunderstorms barreling into Mecklenburg and surrounding counties from the west.
The storms could pack “damaging gusts (up) to 60 mph” along with heavy rainfall, NWS meteorologists warned in alerts Friday morning.
Mountain Island Lake residents in particular should stay alert to possible flooding, as levels of the Catawba River and its lakes are already high due to this week’s rains, according to one NWS alert.
Charlotte was under the tornado warning with Belmont in eastern Gaston County. A warning means radar indicated a possible tornado or an NWS spotter saw one.
Mecklenburg and surrounding counties also were under a severe thunderstorm watch until 8 p.m.
Storms moved into the Charlotte region at about 3:30 p.m.
The storms started in Tennessee and Alabama Friday morning, NWS meteorologist Jake Wimberley told The Charlotte Observer.
Hail and heavy downpours accompanied the systems, according to the NWS.
No injuries were reported.
“So NC wants to go to Phase 2 at 5pm??? MOTHER NATURE,” former Charlotte City Council member LaWana Mayfield tweeted Friday afternoon with a photo of a downpour. That was when Phase Two of Gov. Roy Cooper’s reopening of the state began.
About 40 riverside families at Mountain Island Lake sued Duke Energy recently, accusing the company of mishandling a June 2019 flood, The Observer reported.
At least a foot of rain fell in some parts of the Catawba basin over three days, and on June 9, Duke released the largest amount of water ever from Lake Norman, the Observer reported.
Duke Energy manages the Catawba River basin lakes under federal license.
The combination released an up-to-8-foot surge into more than 100 homes in northwest Charlotte, many of them on Riverside Drive along Mountain Island Lake, according to the lawsuit. The flooding caused millions in damages, residents said in the lawsuit.
A Duke spokeswoman said at the time of the lawsuit filing that the company “stands by the operational decisions made in June 2019 and will vigorously defend itself against the allegations in the lawsuit.”