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Torrent Breaks Michigan Dam and Reveals Climate Risks

Aerial view of main street that is flooded after water from the Tittabawassee River breached a nearby dam on May 20, 2020 in Sanford, Michigan. Credit: Catastrophic flooding in Michigan yesterday was a harbinger of climate change as Rust Belt cities are thrust into the crosshairs of intensifying disasters, experts say.

The dangers of extreme weather, like the deluge in Midland, are rising in frequency and intensity across the Midwest. It speaks to underlying climate conditions such as heavier downpours that drive up the risk of flooding, experts say.

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“This is a tragic event for Midland, and I don’t want to belittle it,” said Drew Gronewold, a hydrologist and associate professor of environment and sustainability at the University of Michigan. “But it’s important that we broaden the context. This entire region is saturated right now, and we have been seeing this wet cycle in the Upper Great Lakes for five years.” Advertisement In Midland’s case, nearly 5 inches of rain fell across a region that couldn’t absorb it, leading the Tittabawassee River to breach a hydroelectric dam and overtop another. The larger structure, called Edenville Dam, lost its operating license in 2018 for noncompliance of federal rules; there were concerns it […]

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