After Dam Failures in Michigan, Flooding Forces Thousands From Homes

A kayaker paddles out to check on a residence as the Tittabawassee River overflows, Wednesday, May 20, 2020, in Midland, Mich.

A kayaker paddles out to check on a residence as the Tittabawassee River overflows, Wednesday, May 20, 2020, in Midland, Mich. AP Photo


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STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Study of mask effectiveness using hamsters in cages finds masks effective .... California lays out criteria for sports reopening ... Mississippi hires new corrections chief from Louisiana.

People were forced to evacuate from their homes in Midland, Michigan Tuesday night after two dams failed, leading to catastrophic flooding in the city of 40,000 residents and surrounding communities. The dams on the Tittabawassee River were breached after the region experienced 48 hours of record rain, leading to predictions the flooding would eclipse a devastating 1986 flood that extensively damaged homes and crops. As many as 10,000 people were evacuated. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer urged people to seek shelter with relatives in other parts of the state, telling them they could also seek refuge in mass shelters as a last resort. "To go through this in the midst of a global pandemic is almost unthinkable. But we are here and to the best of our ability, we are going to navigate this together," Whitmer said. At a shelter set up at the Midland High School, about 100 people spent the night on Tuesday. They were required to wear masks and cots were laid out six-feet apart. "I’m just waiting for the meteor," said one man staying at the shelter, who said he’s been out of a job for two months. One of the dams that failed, the Edenville Dam, had a history of safety violations cited by the federal government, with regulators saying owner Boyce Hydro Power LLC had failed to fix spillways that can help prevent flooding. On Wednesday, Whitmer said the state would "pursue every line of legal recourse" against those responsible for the dams. [Detroit Free Press; Detroit News; Bridge Magazine; Michigan Advance; Washington Post]

MASK EFFECTIVENESS | A new study that used hamsters, some of which were infected with Covid-19, to test how much masks reliably reduce the rate of transmission of the coronavirus found that they were extremely effective. The transmission rate via airborne particles dropped by as much as 75% when masks covered the cages of both healthy and infected hamsters. The masks were much less effective at reducing transmission when they were only placed over only the healthy hamsters’ cages. [CNBC]

PRO SPORTS STARTING? | California Gov. Gavin Newsom laid out guidelines for reopening in the coming weeks, including conditions under which professional sports in the state could resume as early as the first week of June. Any sporting events, however, could not have spectators.Newsom said that individual counties will have to evaluate their preparedness. "The Bay Area is in a different position than some parts of the state, L.A. County is in a different position than other parts of the state. They can move at their own pace based upon their own local conditions," Newsom said. [ABC 7; CNN]

SUING GYMS | The Washington state attorney general is suing two gyms that have stayed open despite the state’s mandatory shut down of such businesses. Attorney General Bob Ferguson cited two legal precedents: a violation of the emergency order to protect public health during the pandemic, and on consumer protection grounds, noting that the businesses “are engaging in an unfair business practice” since competing businesses have remained closed. [KHQ]

MISSISSIPPI PRISONS | A longtime Louisiana prison warden who left that system amid investigations into his business dealings will be the new corrections chief in Mississippi. Gov. Tate Reeves on Wednesday said Burl Cain, who became a national media star—albeit a sometimes controversial one—as the warden at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, will be tasked with overhauling the troubled Mississippi Department of Corrections. The U.S. Department of Justice in February announced it would investigate four state prisons in the state after a series of violent inmate deaths. Reeves praised Cain's record at Louisiana's maximum security prison, often called Angola. "Angola was once known as the bloodiest prison in America... Then a man named Burl Cain entered the picture ... They went from beatings to Bible study," Reeves said. [Clarion Ledger;; CNN]

Laura Maggi is the managing editor at Route Fifty. Emma Coleman is the assistant editor at Route Fifty.

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