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Midland County residents spending Memorial Day weekend cleaning up from massive flood

steve carmody
Michigan Radio

Many people in Midland County will be spending their Memorial Day holiday weekend cleaning up from this week’s massive flood.

It’s the very beginning of a process that may take months or years to restore or rebuild.

The failure of two dams after days of heavy rain swelled the Tittabawassee River beyond its banks, as well as beyond where the river had ever flooded before.

The failure of the dams turned what was expected to be a serious flood into a “500-Year” event. The Tittabawassee River crested at 35 feet in Midland, the highest level ever recorded in that city.

The flood water spilled far beyond the river. Residents along Sturgeon Avenue on Midland’s far northwest side say the water flowed up their street and was waist deep at its height. 

By Friday, the hum of generators could be heard throughout Midland County. Many of the portable generators are powering pumps removing water from flooded basements. 

Audrey Jennings’ parents’ home on Sturgeon Avenue in Midland had eight feet of water in its basement.  After pumping water out since Thursday, Jennings says there’s still about two to three feet of water in the basement.

Between trips rolling a wheel barrel full water-soggy insulation of back and forth to the curb, Jennings says she expects the family will be cleaning up the mess all weekend.

“Unfortunately,” Jennings says with a weary laugh, “we’re going to be ripping out everything out that we can. Just trying to get air circulating...dry everything up so we can get people in there to look at the damage.”

Just down the street, Harold Lefler and his grandkids are mucking out the home his parents built in 1947. He says this is the third time it’s been flooded, and this time was the worst.

“Before all we had to do for remediation was suck out the basement...paint the walls and we were done,” says Lefler. “This time we’re sucking out the basement...ripping out the walls...sanitizing the whole house.”

Lefler expects to take a year repairing the house. Then he plans to sell it. 

Many hope to bring in contractors next week to get a sense of how much it will cost to repair the damage.

Midland County officials are asking effected property owners to file damage reports with the County Emergency Management office.

The information will help the Midland Damage Assessment team determine the extent of damage in the community.

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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