Burst Dams and Helping Hands

by | Jun 17, 2020 | Emergency Response, Natural Disaster Emergency Response

In mid-May of this year, heavy rains poured over Midland County, Michigan provoking flooding and leading to the failure of two local dams, Edenville Dam and Sanford Dam. Both dams are nearly 100 years old, which is often past the intended lifespan of older dam construction. This results in a weakened infrastructure that is not able to withstand rapid rainfall such as Midland County has recently endured. These failures led to disastrous flooding in the region and swelling of the Tittabawassee River, overwhelming the city within days. The Governor of Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer, called for the evacuation of 10,000 people in the region in addition to declaring a State of Emergency. The storm led to the destruction of 2,500 structures including 150 homes with another 790 homes damaged.

One man, who had only moved into his home six weeks before the flooding, was in disbelief as he shared with Pastor Scott Hayes of Coleman Wesleyan Church, Colemen MI, that he had lost almost everything to the flood. He was particularly shocked that the flooding hit his home as badly as it did as he was originally told that his new home was not in a floodplain and so he didn’t need flood insurance.

Many other community members experienced similar feelings of shock and disbelief as they lost most of their homes and belongings to the flooding. One person shared that they thought that they would be safe from the flooding, but they experienced five feet or so of water in their home even though they lived on top of a hill.

“There are things in my house that aren’t even mine. I’m not sure where my kitchen cabinets and dining room table are…there isn’t even a space big enough for it to have left my house, but it’s gone. That 70-pound grill you see there…that was on the back porch facing the river. Look at it! It’s on my front porch now…I didn’t move it…it had to have gone through my house!”


Midland Community Member

In the aftermath of the rain, the dams bursting, and the subsequent flooding, many homes were destroyed and still more had standing water in their basements. That’s why World Hope International (WHI) collaborated with local community partners on the ground to deliver disaster assistance. After community-driven efforts to identify immediate needs, World Hope partnered with Amazon to provide much needed supplies such as pumps to drain water out of homes, mops, buckets, trash bags, cleaning supplies, and personal hygiene items.

“When Wesleyan pastors in the affected area reached out to World Hope for assistance, we saw an immediate opportunity to help,” stated Kris Meyer, WHI COO who heads World Hope’s disaster response. “Using one of the members of our development team, we were able to quickly collaborate and leverage the resources of partners like Amazon, FEMA, and others to provide tools and equipment to help get their homes back together.”

Through Amazon’s generous donation, WHI was able to send over 550 items to help clean up the flooding damage as well as personal care items for those displaced from their homes.

The Hatfield’s, pictured above, received two pumps so that they could help neighbors pump out their homes.

“You folks are a God-send. There is no way we could begin to clean up until we get the water out.”


Midland Community Member

“We have 4 feet of water in our basement and our old pumps have failed. This new pump will work so much better and help us clean out the basement. Thank you World Hope and Amazon.”

Bob & Ethel

Lifelong Midland Community Members

Dr. George Beals, Director of Strategic Development at WHI, was able to personally respond to the disaster as he was in Michigan at the time. George shares with us what it was like to respond to a visible disaster during what, to some, may feel like the invisible threat of COVID-19.

“When I was asked to be in contact with the pastors in mid-Michigan and help them with whatever they needed my only hesitation was wondering what I had to offer. Working for a Relief & Development agency, this is what we do, respond to needs as they occur, so I jumped in…I also had some apprehension as to going into another community during the COVID-19 pandemic. Michigan had been hard hit by this virus. I was traveling from a suburban area in the western part of the state to a rural area in the middle of the state…At the distribution site where flood victims could pick up cleaning supplies, food, and sundries, everyone was wearing masks…People were respectful of others and the highest priority was to help those impacted by the flooding, and then our own safety. It was a little hot and cumbersome to wear a mask when delivering supplies and helping those in need. But I knew that wearing my mask was a way to show others I cared about them because I didn’t want to give them the virus.”

Coleman Wesleyan Church  and Faith Wesleyan Church, as well as first responders, including Jerome Township Fire Department in Midland, MI, received nearly $25,000 worth of support through this partnership. They were then able to provide relief to dozens of families affected by the flooding.

Banner image photo by Master Sgt. Scott Thompson

Responding rapidly and responsibly to disasters is made possible by the support of indivual donors, churches, and organizations, as well as through our strong coalition of partner organizations and our amazing network of volunteers. 

You can also support our emergency response efforts specifically or make a gift to The Hope Fund, which enables us to apply your donation where and when it matters most.