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Eastern Railroad Discussion > Major dam break, Midland, MI: everyone OK?

Date: 05/19/20 20:57
Major dam break, Midland, MI: everyone OK?
Author: OHCR1551

I just heard about this and it sounds seriously bad. Three large dams failed because of heavy rain and Midland is being evacuated. The 42,000 people have to be the first concern, but after that there's a place for rails, isn't there?

I don't have a mental grip on where Durand and Owosso are with respect to that. Flint and Saginaw may be affected as the flood crest progresses.

Rebecca Morgan
Jacobsburg, OH

Date: 05/20/20 04:53
Re: Major dam break, Midland, MI: everyone OK?
Author: snemes

Midland has been evacuated.

Durand and Owosso about 40 miles south, with all the water flowing east toward Bay City. Rail service comes from Saginaw and Bay City serving the Dow complex, with the Saginaw rail line roughly following the flooding river toward Midland for about half the distance.

Date: 05/20/20 07:55
Re: Major dam break, Midland, MI: everyone OK?
Author: RichM

I don't know the geography, but that Dow site used to be a mess... is the plant area expected to be flooded?

Date: 05/20/20 09:12
Re: Major dam break, Midland, MI: everyone OK?
Author: engineerinvirginia

Praying for all....many C&O people from Michigan transferred to Virginia and I've known and worked with many...most retired by now, but they are brothers and their families are my family. 

Date: 05/20/20 12:58
Re: Major dam break, Midland, MI: everyone OK?
Author: snemes

Reports say water in plant - river right next to plant - but unsure of amount

Posted from iPhone

Date: 05/20/20 14:47
Re: Major dam break, Midland, MI: everyone OK?
Author: RichM

Oh boy... I'm thinking the bad stuff is diked or otherwise contained, but it's a HAZMAT site for sure..


Date: 05/20/20 15:12
Re: Major dam break, Midland, MI: everyone OK?
Author: march_hare

Reports are that it's one of the larger Superfund sites in Michigan. Given the history of chemical manufacturing on the site, that's quite believable. 

I've been through several flooding scares on contaminated sites, Superfund and otherwise. Simple inundation rarely causes a problem, but if there is enough flow to cause serious erosion, then that can change. The fate of contaminated sediments in the river will have to be investigated when it's all over. 

And of course, whatever is involved in current operation is not covered by Superfund. Could be some serious tank leakage and releases from daily operations. 

Date: 05/20/20 16:40
Re: Major dam break, Midland, MI: everyone OK?
Author: Lackawanna484

The side spread flooding in North Carolina in 2016 released a lot of coal ash and pig waste.

Posted from Android

Date: 05/20/20 16:48
Re: Major dam break, Midland, MI: everyone OK?
Author: howeld

Not part of the dam break but tracks have washed out in Tawas City, MI. Right at the fire department.

Posted from iPhone

Date: 05/20/20 18:00
Re: Major dam break, Midland, MI: everyone OK?
Author: dxm332

The Midland daily news website interviewed a plant spoke person who stated

The Dow plant along with other chemicals companies on site have executed a controlled shutdown

All rail cars have been moved to higher ground

Truck trailers have been moved off site

They have only experienced minor amounts of water entering the site

After the 1986 flood they made major improvements to the site so that it is more resistant to flooding

Posted from Android

Date: 05/21/20 15:55
Re: Major dam break, Midland, MI: everyone OK?
Author: chapmaja

From what I know of the area is as follows. 

The Dow plant does have some robust earthen berms around the property, which could help limit the flood waters getting into (and more importantly), back out of the property. The on site railroad switching company did move all cars to higher ground away from the river, so it is unlikely that the cars got flooded, nor the engines. Two railroads, the HESR and Lake State provide service to this complex. The Lake State does have a spur that crosses the flooded river to a power station, but that is rarely if every used anymore. The Lake State mainline to Saginaw does run in fairly close proximity to the river, so they may suffer some flooding issues. 

As the floodwaters move downstream they will run through Saginaw and Bay City. The river does expand in width significantly, and there as a substantial area of marshland between Saginaw and Bay City. This should help mitigate the serious risks of flooding that Midland and Sanford saw. 

For those who don't know, the Edenville Dam failed, sending billions of gallons of water from behind the dam downstream into Sanford Lake, which is held back by Sandford Dam. There are conflicting reports as to if Sanford Dam actually failed. Some reports say the splillway is a so called plug spillway, designed to giveway when the pressure behind the dam exceeds capacity. This definately gave way with the added water from Wixom Lake and that water flooded downstream into into Midland. It certainly was more water than the city could handled. The river peaked at about 1 to 1.5 feet higher than it had during the devistating 1986 floods. 

There are picture of boats still attached to docks on Wixom Lake, except they are now hanging. 

The worst part about all of this is why it happened. Simply put, the owner of the dam was neglegent in maintaining the dam. This dam was a hydroelectric dam and was regulated by the Federal Energy Regulartory Commission (FERC). FERC had been going after the owner Boyce Hydro since 2004 when they purchased the property. The biggest concern was the lack of spillway capacity in the event of a major flood. After years and years of attempts to get Boyce to address the concerns, FERC revoked the operators license. Boyce was in the process of selling the property, as well as several others, to a commission consisting of several local governments including those Midland and Gladwin Counties. The sale was expected to conclude later this year, but over $300,000 had been spent on repairs to the dam in the last few months. Sadly, none of those repairs addressed the spillway capacity, and that ultimately was what killed the dam and hampered so many lives down stream. Thankfully it appears nobody was killed or seriously injured by the flood. 

Date: 05/21/20 17:05
Re: Major dam break, Midland, MI: everyone OK?
Author: kenN

I saw a drone picture of Sanford Dam today, and it is definitely breached; the lake drained out completely overnight last night.  My uncle lives on Sanford Lake. Their house and property were damaged by the "tsunami" caused by the rupture of Edenville Dam (Wixom Lake) on Tuesday night.  That event was fairly short-lived, but there is mud everywhere and lots of damage.  And now both dams and both lakes are gone.  Most folks hadn't put their boats out yet which is fortunate.  There was one pontoon boat that disappeared downstream from Sanford.  As of this afternoon (Thurs) , the river has crested in Midland and is now receding.  Saginaw is next.
Ken Nagel
Grand Rapids, MI

Date: 05/21/20 20:27
Re: Major dam break, Midland, MI: everyone OK?
Author: chapmaja

The lasted update is that the dam itself did hold up. Unfortunately the berm did give way which has lead to a large volume of water now draining out of the lack. 

The dam itself is still in place, but when you have a berm holding that much water back and it goes, so goes the lake. 

It will be interesting to see what happens as a result of this. If they try to rebuilding the berms and dam structures, it will cost millions of dollars and take multiple years of engineering and construction work. Then, unless we see another bunch of massive rainfall events, it will take a significant period to refill the lakes behind the dams. 

Refilling the lakes can't be as simple as simply completely stopping the water flow of the river behind the dam until it reaches a volume to go through the gates and downstream. This river flows down into the Saginaw River. Cutting off a significant volume of water flow from the Saginaw River can have economic conquences as the river is Zilwaukee. One resident I heard said filling one of the lakes may take several years once the dam is complete. 

Not rebuilding the dams will also have major economic consequences. The properties on those lakes have just lost a very large portion of their value simply because they went from lake front property, to muddy river plain front. Muddy river plain property doesn't get people much money. 


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