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posted by martyb on Wednesday May 20 2020, @01:19PM   Printer-friendly

2 Dams Fail in Michigan, Forcing Thousands to Evacuate :

Severe flooding struck central Michigan on Wednesday after two dams were breached and days of heavy rainfall, forcing the evacuation of thousands of residents and prompting officials to warn of life-threatening danger.

The failures on Tuesday of the Edenville Dam and the Sanford Dam, about 140 miles northwest of Detroit, led the National Weather Service to issue a flash flood warning for areas near the Tittabawassee River, with downstream effects expected from Midland to Saginaw overnight. Residents in nearby towns, including Edenville, Sanford and Midland, were evacuated.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said at a news conference on Tuesday that downtown Midland, with a population of more than 41,000, could be under nine feet of water by Wednesday morning.

[...] The Tittabawassee River was expected to crest at 38 feet by 8 a.m. Wednesday, more than four feet higher than its record of 34 feet set in 1986. The flood stage is at 24 feet.

Dow Chemical Company, based in Midland, has activated its emergency operations center and will be adjusting operations, Rachelle Schikorra, a spokeswoman, told The Associated Press.

According to Detroit Free Press:

In 2018, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission revoked the license of the company that operated the Edenville Dam due to non-compliance issues that included spillway capacity and the inability to pass the most severe flood reasonably possible in the area.

The Edenville Dam, which was built in 1924, was rated in unsatisfactory condition in 2018 by the state. The Sanford Dam, which was built in 1925, received a fair condition rating.


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  • (Score: 2) by PiMuNu on Wednesday May 20 2020, @04:00PM (11 children)

    by PiMuNu (3823) on Wednesday May 20 2020, @04:00PM (#996943)

    I found this article:

    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/233107559_The_Changing_Geography_of_the_US_Water_Budget_Twentieth-Century_Patterns_and_Twenty-First-Century_Projections [researchgate.net]

    It looks like e.g. precipitation and soil moisture have risen a few % around great lakes in 20th century. You can choose whether to believe forecast for another 10 % increase in 21st century.

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  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by NateMich on Wednesday May 20 2020, @04:16PM (6 children)

    by NateMich (6662) on Wednesday May 20 2020, @04:16PM (#996951)

    Lake levels have been super high here for the last couple of years, but a couple of days ago we had an incredible amount of rain. Certainly the most water I've ever seen sitting in the yards in my neighborhood. My sump was running for like 3 hours straight, and I'm glad I bought a super size pump a few years ago (the cheapo ones from Home Depot or ACE fail all the time because they rust).

    That Sanford dam failed I'm not surprised one bit. That place always freaked me out when you're on I-75 driving right over the lake. Also, I'm pretty sure they had some flooding there last year as well, but obviously nothing like this.

    • (Score: 2) by PiMuNu on Wednesday May 20 2020, @04:32PM (5 children)

      by PiMuNu (3823) on Wednesday May 20 2020, @04:32PM (#996961)

      > a couple of days ago we had an incredible amount of rain.

      Sure, and the paper I linked gave average rainfall rather than some measure of "extreme" rainfall events. Nonetheless, one might naively expect that if average rainfall goes up, the number of "extreme" events goes up as well. Maybe someone can find a better reference.

      • (Score: 1) by hemocyanin on Wednesday May 20 2020, @05:03PM (4 children)

        by hemocyanin (186) on Wednesday May 20 2020, @05:03PM (#996979) Journal

        Nonetheless, one might naively expect that if average rainfall goes up, the number of "extreme" events goes up as well.

        Maybe. The average can go up because it gently rains more often too. Also, if the average was to rise, extreme events may become less likely really -- there's only so much water the atmosphere can hold and then it can hold no more -- this is why there are no rivers in the sky, so if in a worst case scenario the maximum atmospheric saturation was reach and it never stopped raining at the maximal torrential value, extreme events would fall to zero.

        • (Score: 2) by PiMuNu on Wednesday May 20 2020, @05:47PM

          by PiMuNu (3823) on Wednesday May 20 2020, @05:47PM (#996998)

          There is an article here describing various different estimators of the rainfall probability density function

          https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/2015GL063238 [wiley.com]

          TL;DR - they say a power law is a good pdf to use, i.e. p(rainfall) = Normalisation*rainfall^k = N r^k

          I guess the mean of such a distribution is given by

          Integral (p) dr = (N/k)*r^(k+1)

          so the number of extreme events does follow the mean rainfall.

          I know nothing about meteorology!

        • (Score: 2) by dry on Thursday May 21 2020, @05:06AM (2 children)

          by dry (223) on Thursday May 21 2020, @05:06AM (#997279) Journal

          Meteorologists talk about atmospheric rivers https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atmospheric_river [wikipedia.org] now and again around here. The most famous one is called the Pineapple Express https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pineapple_Express [wikipedia.org] as it comes from Hawaii and can dump up to 14 inches of rain in a day, one in 1862 dumped 8.5 feet.

          • (Score: 1) by hemocyanin on Thursday May 21 2020, @12:04PM (1 child)

            by hemocyanin (186) on Thursday May 21 2020, @12:04PM (#997342) Journal

            I get that -- what I'm talking about is an actual river -- not floating mists but water fish could live in. They don't exist in the sky because of gravity -- there is an upper limit to the amount of water air can hold at our gravity, pressure, temperature etc, and nothing will make it hold more. Meaning, there is some upper bound to the amount of rain physically possible and once that saturation event is reached, there will be no extreme rain because it would all be the maximal amount.

            • (Score: 2) by dry on Thursday May 21 2020, @03:08PM

              by dry (223) on Thursday May 21 2020, @03:08PM (#997404) Journal

              Some of these really do seem like a water fall from a sky river, but of course you're right in that there is a limit.

  • (Score: 2) by cmdrklarg on Wednesday May 20 2020, @08:24PM

    by cmdrklarg (5048) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday May 20 2020, @08:24PM (#997087)

    Anecdotally, it's been wetter the past few years in southern MN at least. The rivers and lakes in the area have been higher than usual. Last year was really wet, with record snow in February, and generally rainy weather in the spring.

    I imagine the rains that caused Michigan's woes went through here on Saturday-Sunday. I had a bit over 4 inches of rain at my house. Never rained very hard, but it was steady for a day.

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  • (Score: 2) by canopic jug on Thursday May 21 2020, @12:56PM (2 children)

    by canopic jug (3949) on Thursday May 21 2020, @12:56PM (#997351) Journal

    It's not just the increased rain. The state has a very large number of neglected [mlive.com] and, in some cases, abandoned dams. In 2018 there was an infrastructure report [bridgemi.com] which showed:

    • Almost 300 dams — or 12 percent — have a “high” or “significant” hazard potential rating.
    • About two-thirds of Michigan’s dams have reached their intended 50-year design life
    • Over the next five years, this number will grow to approximately 80 percent
    • There are 271 Michigan dams over 100 years old
    • Only 86 new dams have been built in the last 25 years
    • 90 percent of Michigan dam’s with a “high” hazard rating are more than 50 years old

    When you combine that lack of investment in infrastructure with increasing precipitation, the dams are going to fail.

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    • (Score: 2) by PiMuNu on Thursday May 21 2020, @02:56PM (1 child)

      by PiMuNu (3823) on Thursday May 21 2020, @02:56PM (#997396)

      You want infrastructure? Might have to pay some taxes!

      • (Score: 2) by canopic jug on Thursday May 21 2020, @03:28PM

        by canopic jug (3949) on Thursday May 21 2020, @03:28PM (#997411) Journal

        That's it in a nutshell. They haven't collected taxes in decades on corporations or even wealthy individuals.

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