Thousands of residents were evacuated Wednesday in Midland, Michigan, and the surrounding area after two dams failed following several days of rain, causing severe flooding.
On Tuesday, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency in the area and urged residents to move to safety.
The National Weather Service said the Tittabawassee River's current water levels exceeded the 1986 record of 33.8 feet (10.3 meters). The NWS expects the river to crest at 38 feet (10.3 meters) by Wednesday evening.
"In the next 12 to 15 hours, downtown Midland could be under approximately 9 feet (2.7 meters) of water," Whitmer said in a press briefing Tuesday, calling the flooding "historic" and "life-threatening."
Midland City Manager Brad Kaye echoed Whitmer's claim, telling Michigan Radio, "What we're looking at is an event that is the equivalent of a 500-year flood."
The evacuation of more than 10,000 people is complicated by the threat of COVID-19 in the area. Although Midland County has confirmed fewer than 80 cases and fewer than 10 deaths, Michigan has 52,350 confirmed cases, the state's government reported.
Michigan Radio added that all of the patients in the county's hospital have also been evacuated.
Despite the low number of cases in the area, evacuation centers are still adhering to social distancing guidelines and other health and safety precautions, according to the Associate Press.
President Donald Trump tweeted in support of the evacuations on Wednesday, writing, "STAY SAFE and listen to local officials."
The town of Midland is expected to see the worst damage, as the river bisects the city center, Michigan Radio said.
A Dow Chemical plant headquartered in Midland shut down all of its units, except those necessary to safeguard chemicals, spokesman Kyle Bandlow said. The company employs 9,000 employees in the area.
In 2018, the Sanford Dam, one of the two dams that failed Tuesday, received a fair condition rating after a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission inspection. That year, the license of the Edenville Dam's operating company was revoked as a result of noncompliance issues and an inability to pass severe flood testing. The Edenville is the second failed dam.
Both dams are in the process of being sold, according to the AP.