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Michigan State students impacted by Midland flooding share their stories

May 22, 2020
<p>Photo courtesy of MSU student Megan Arlt. The outside view of a rental home in Midland as Arlt kayaked through the flood water. </p>

Photo courtesy of MSU student Megan Arlt. The outside view of a rental home in Midland as Arlt kayaked through the flood water.

The Edenville and Sanford dams in mid-Michigan failed, resulting in flooding that began late Tuesday night. Michigan State students currently residing in Midland faced displacement and potential damage to their homes.

As Midland residents were displaced, shelters opened up in local high schools.

MSU neuroscience junior Maddie Allen volunteered at Midland High School, which transitioned into a shelter to help people in evacuation zones.

Due to the seriousness of COVID-19, extra precautions were taken to protect people staying in the shelter. Masks, gloves and hand sanitizers were provided.

Many people who had to go to the shelter were older and at a greater risk if they were to contract the novel coronavirus, so steps were taken to prevent that.

"A lot of the people who stayed in the shelter were elderly," Allen said. "They were playing cards together and sanitizing their cards."

Despite the stressful situation, people are remaining positive, Allen said.

"Honestly, a lot of the emotion I saw was just gratefulness," Allen said. "Everyone was just so grateful that people were coming together. Obviously, there was some sadness and feeling of loss, but a lot of people were ... expressing their gratitude, and it just amazed me — going through something so unbelievably traumatic and stressful like that and then to still be thankful, it was just very uplifting."


Media and information senior Megan Arlt and her family volunteered Thursday night. When the flooding began, she was still in East Lansing, but she returned home Wednesday to help out.

"I've really seen the community come together and keep everyone updated on volunteering opportunities ... and different organizations you can donate to," she said.

Arlt's family home was not damaged in the flooding, but because she lives by a dead end in the road, she had to kayak over a bridge that flooded to get back to her house.

"One of the bridges to get to my house was flooded — and it usually floods every year — but obviously this year, it's a lot worse," she said.

Although Arlt's family home didn't see flooding, their other rental home did. Arlt said her family home would have been at a greater risk if the Sanford Dam broke.

"It's really unfortunate and sad to see Midland like this, and Sanford, and any other towns affected by it," she said. "I have friends in Freeland that are also affected by the floods."

Even some facing loss are choosing to search for the brighter sides of things.

Packaging senior Morgan Arndt's mother runs an insurance agency, which was at risk of facing damages in the flood, so after receiving an alert early Tuesday morning, Arndt and her family headed to her mother's office in Midland. By the time they left, they had just minutes before the store was expected to begin flooding.

"My mom's business got evacuated, so we had to rush there last night and we had to completely take everything out, we had to put all the electronics as high up as possible, flip the chairs up, take anything valuable out and then they basically said it was going to start flooding within the next 20 minutes," she said.

Currently living in Freeland, Arndt's home is safe, for now. The Sanford Dam has only failed as of now — it is still standing and impeding the flow of water. But if it breaks, she's in an at-risk area right near the Tittabawassee River.

"We don't have as much stress as I would say some other people do, just because right now our house is not in immediate danger," she said. "But our household is very on edge and nervous and I guess more or less scared because we don't know what's going to happen."

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The family's plan is to evacuate to Ardnt's grandparents' home in the case they can't stay, but there are greater complications that come with that due to COVID-19. Ardnt's home of four would stay with them, and they have bags packed just in case.

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Ardnt said the scariest part of it all is the financial strain her family would face, already having hours cut back because of COVID-19.

"Everyone's taken on decline in income because of COVID," she said. "With this happening, this is going to be even more of a financial strain because if we have to do anything to my mom's office — if it is in fact flooded — we're going to have to obviously fix that."

Despite this, the family is trying to remain positive and focus on the fact that their home is not in a compromised position yet.

The flooding is extensive, but chemical engineering sophomore Matthew Gach said Midland was pretty well prepared.

"As compared to your average town, we're relatively prepared for this," he said. He referenced the flood that occurred in 2017, noting that the historic floods might be more common than they are expected to be.

Gach has family friends staying with him after they faced evacuation, but his house is in an elevated area of Midland, keeping it safe. The two people staying with him are 84 and 90 years old, and his family felt it was safer for them, rather than going to one of the shelters since they are a part of a more at-risk population.

"COVID-19 is still inarguably one of the biggest concerns for everyone here in Midland," he said. "A lot of people were opting to stay in their cars and sleep in their cars instead of going into the shelter areas."

The community is working together to remain calm and orderly.

"The overall response I would say is more stoic, take it as it comes," Gach said.

Stay with Midland's city website for flood maps and updates.


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