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Michigan to seek disaster declaration for counties hit by May floods

State of Michigan

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer plans to ask for a federal disaster declaration for parts of Michigan hard hit by flooding last month.

Heavy rains flooded towns and overflowed damsin parts of mid-Michigan, including Midland and Gladwin Counties. Thousands were forced to evacuate their homes as the Tittabawassee River rose to a record height. Weeks later, many people are still cleaning and repairing their homes and businesses. 

Midland County Commission Chairman Mark Bone estimates the flooding caused at least $200 million in damage in his county alone. He estimates 2,500 homes were damaged, of which only 8% had flood insurance. Bone says nearly 1,000 homes were either completely destroyed or suffered major damage from the flood.

“This community is a strong community,” says Bone. “We are ready to rebuild.”

Whitmer’s emergency declaration included Midland, Gladwin, Saginaw, Arenac and Iosco counties. The Whitmer administration is still collecting damage assessments from the counties impacted by May’s floods.

In Sanford Monday, Gov. Whitmer helped pack food and other supplies for those still recovering the May 19 flood.   

Whitmer says expects to send her letter requesting the declaration next week.

“When the president approves our full request, federal assistance will be unlocked to help people and businesses get back on their feet and repair some of the damage this flooding has caused,” says Whitmer. 

President Donald Trump has already signed an emergency declaration for the May flooding. The declaration freed up FEMA and other federal agencies to assist with recovery efforts.

By requesting a disaster declaration, Gov. Whitmer is seeking to free up more federal funding to assist communities to recover. 

The May 19 flood has been a serious blow to Midland businesses, already reeling from the state’s ‘Stay-at-Home’ order in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sue MacKellar owns a couple of small businesses in Midland.

Her events business was already largely shuttered by the pandemic. She says the flood inundated her four Airbnb’s.

MacKellar says her events business has lost more than 70% in sales due to the shutdown and May’s floods.

“This time of year is like Christmas for our events and things that are going on. And it was just totally gone,” says MacKellar.

MacKellar says the government should do more to help small businesses recover.

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Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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