Both the Edenville and Sanford Dams breached Tuesday night, the governor said in a news release, and urged residents to evacuate the affected areas in Midland County immediately.
“If you have a family member or loved one who lives in another part of the state, go there now,” she said. “If you don’t, go to one of the shelters that have opened across the county.”
Residents should “seek higher ground” as far east and west of the Tittabawassee River as possible, according to the City of Midland website.
“In the next 12 to 15 hours, downtown Midland could be under approximately nine feet of water,” Whitmer said in a news conference. “We are anticipating an historic high water level.”
10,000 people evacuating amid pandemic
Mark Bone, Chairman of the Midland County Board of Commissioners, said he believes about 3,500 homes and 10,000 people have so far been affected by the evacuation notices. No deaths or injuries have so far been reported, he said.
The timing of the dam breaches is especially difficult as officials are trying to take precautions to prevent the spread of coronavirus, as people gather in the shelters that have been set up.
Teams are trying to screen individuals being sheltered, Bone said, and emergency response personnel have plenty of personal protective equipment and are wearing masks.
He also said there are masks available for everyone going into the shelters.
“To go through this in the midst of a global pandemic is almost unthinkable. But we are here, and to the best of our ability we are going to navigate this together,” Whitmer said.
“So please, to the best of your ability, continue to wear a face covering when you go to a shelter or go stay with a friend or relative.”
The Michigan National Guard has been activated and is on site with high-water vehicles on the way to the area, according to the governor.
The state’s emergency operations center has also been fully activated and is responding to the emergency, she said.
CNN’s Ganesh Setty contributed to this report.