GLADWIN – Gladwin County Clerk Laura Brandon-Maveal organized a press conference Tuesday morning to provide the most timely and accurate information available pertaining to the recent flood and the recovery efforts. Speaking at the conference were Road Commission manager David Pettersch, Sheriff Mike Shea, Steve King, Director of Environmental Health for the Central Michigan District Health Department, and Bob North Emergency Management Director for Gladwin County.
Gladwin County Road Commission
When the flooding started, several-hundred miles of roads were closed county wide. Currently, there are still 16 closures, but the crews are working 16-hour days to whittle down that number. Pettersch mentioned that the biggest issue is the closure of two major bridges in Billings Township. “Mobility is severely impacted at this time at these major crossings.” The structural integrity of the bridges is questionable. “We will be assessing them this week to see if there is anything we can do. We want to have at least one open by the end of next week.”
Further updates can be found on the Gladwin County Road Commission Facebook page or at www.gladwinroads.com.
Gladwin County Sheriff
“From a law enforcement perspective safety is our number one concern,” said Sheriff Mike Shea. He mentioned several areas of concern when it comes to public safety. One is the desire of people to enter the bottomlands where the lakes once stood. “People are very transient this time of year especially around the holiday period.” Lots of them want to get pictures from the dried lakebed. “It is essential that they stay out of there, primarily for their own safety, but also because of the ongoing safety inspections. We still have water being held back.” Failure of those structures could be catastrophic to anyone on the riverbed.
Shea also mentioned that road commission barricades are not suggestions. All vehicle and pedestrian travel beyond the barricades is prohibited. These are dangerous areas, especially those structures that remain over the water.
Several scams have also surfaced recently. One involves the sale of flood insurance retroactively. This is not possible. Another potential problem may surface with the resale of flooded appliance and furniture. Shea said the people are picking up material that has been deposited along the roadside. He suggests that you not purchase used appliances at this time and as you move forward that you do it from a reputable source.
There were several reports of looting soon after the flood, but Shea suspects that people going through the debris piles were confused for looters. He said that there have been no larcenies reported to his department. Another issue discussed was the ownership of the bottomlands and criminal trespass. He has tried to contact Boyce Hydro to discuss the ownership issue, but they have not responded. He did say that property lines were not moved because of the flood. Shoreline owners do not own the newly created dry bottomlands. “We want people to stay off of them for their own safety, more so than it being a trespass issue.”
With the shutdown of local restaurants due to COVID -19 it is difficult for displaced individuals and volunteers to get a ready-made meal. Lines are extremely long at the fast food establishments so he is encouraging carry out establishments to do whatever they can within the law to make up the deficit. “We need to get people fed,” he said. He hopes that something will be done soon to help the restaurants and those in need of food.
Central Michigan District Health
Steve King the Director of Environmental Health said that the main concern of his department is contaminated water. Homeowners need to make sure that their wells are safe and the water is free of bacteria. Any well that was under floodwater may have been contaminated and needs to be tested. Well users should contact a licensed well driller to have the well chlorinated and the test conducted. “Anytime a well is flooded you should not consume the water until it has been proven safe.” Boiling is one method for making water safe. He said, “If your only water source is questionable and you can’t get water from another source boiling is one method for making it safe.”
He also encourages people to dry out their homes as soon as possible. Flood damaged items should be removed from the home quickly. The longer the home is wet the greater the likelihood mold will develop. Guidelines for dealing with a flooded home can be found at the website www.cmdhd.org.
Gladwin County Clerk
County Clerk Laura Brandon-Maveal discussed several issues of importance to residents. She mentioned that a website has been established for those seeking to make donations to the relief effort. A link can be found on the Gladwin County Community Foundation site gladwinfoundation.gov. Another website gladwin-mi.gov contains the most up-to-date information and press releases from Emergency Manager Bob North.
For those that wish to volunteer a reception center has been set up at the Billings Township Hall, 1050 Estey Rd. Beaverton. Volunteers can also register by calling 989-435-8430 ext. 4 between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. The registration process will help determine the best placement for each volunteer.
Gladwin County also encourages residents to get their house cleaned out soon. Everything needs to be placed at the curb and most items do not need to be sorted. The only things that need to be separated out are those containing refrigerant or
coolants. All furniture and appliances that have been soaked or otherwise contaminated should be marked clearly with a large red X or the word flood.
Brandon-Maveal also said that flood victim should also take video or pictures of everything that is damaged. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will use it as evidence. Pictures can be uploaded to the FEMA website. Michigan 211 will be handling all other aspects of the flooding from taking damage claims to providing shelter and food. “When all else fails, call 211,” she said.
Emergency Management Gladwin County
Bob North Emergency Management Director called the flooding and dam failure “unprecedented.” He also said that the Army Corps of Engineers, Michigan Dam Safety Inspectors and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) all met today to work out a schedule for inspecting the four Boyce Dams. They will also be inspecting the other dams in the Cedar and Tittabawassee River watersheds. “They will be trying to get a true handle on how much water is present,” said North.
North also reiterated some of the earlier suggestions such as calling 211 for information regarding shelters and food. There are logistic people working in the emergency operations center that can help.
“We have finally got our feet under us and are moving forward,” he said. “We had spent several days in emergency response mode due to continuing safety concerns.” Debris removal information can be found on the county website along with building inspection information. Inspections are underway with damage assessment being done by the Equalization Department and the Gladwin County Emergency Response Team. The Gladwin County website will direct users to another site with instructions for damage self-assessment. Up to six photographs can be uploaded on this site.
“There will be no FEMA boots on the ground,” according to North. The day of the breech there was a state police helicopter filming the flooding. North was with an aerial surveillance team equipped with drones. This along with the self-assessment tool will be used by FEMA to determine the course of action.
“This is a large undertaking and patience is the watchword,” continued North. “We will be handing out information door-to-door along to go along with what can be found on electronic media.” The door-to-door effort is starting today, but it will take a considerable amount of time to reach everyone. He did want people to know that if anything electrical, including outlets was covered with water it should be considered “unsafe. We don’t want to have any house fires.”
So far there is no credible estimate for the amount of damage in Gladwin County and North does not want to speculate. “We have received an emergency declaration from the state, but have not received an update from FEMA. We should be included in everything that Midland County gets. “Thankfully we didn’t lose anybody.”
Gladwin County Commissioners
Gladwin County Board of Commissioners Chair Sharron Smith was there to provide moral support. She thanked everyone involved in the relief effort and implored the public to follow the directives of the local officials.