QUICK TO ASSIST, Shelly Ochodnicky of the Owosso Homeless Angels campus, delivered a full load of bins with personal care items for mid-Michigan residents forced to flee homes due to the collapse of dams in Midland and Gladwin Counties on Tuesday, May 19. The items were delivered to the Swan Valley High School on Wednesday afternoon, May 20.
Shown in the makeshift sleeping area in the school gym are (from left) Sam Schneider (of Owosso), Ochodnicky and Swan Valley High Principal Craig Blower. Fifty residents spent Tuesday night at the shelter.
The small flooded home is within one mile of Swan Valley High. The Swan Valley School District is only 34 miles north of Shiawassee County.
(Independent Photo/Karen Mead-Elford)
by Karen Mead-Elford, co-editor
A State of Emergency was declared after two mid-Michigan dams breached on Tuesday evening, May 19, forcing an abrupt evacuation process in the Midland/Gladwin County region. The Edenville, Sanford and (later) Smallwood dams failed causing flash flood emergencies along the Tittabawassee River after heavy rains went through the region. The Tittabawassee River crested at 35.05 feet by 5 p.m., Wednesday, May 20. Flood stage for the river is 24 feet.
Approximately 10,000 people were forced to evacuate the Midland area. The flooding caused enormous property and infrastructure damage. As of Wednesday afternoon, no casualties had been reported.
Emergency responders were quick to provide several shelters, mostly at nearby public schools, for people forced to evacuate.
A number of people from Shiawassee County own property to the north, and a few had decided to isolate at these properties during quarantine. It is not known if any Shiawassee County residents were forced to a shelter during this process.
Shelly Ochodnicky, the director of the Owosso Homeless Angels campus, stepped up by early Wednesday morning to organize the delivery and donation of a load of personal care items, including fresh towels, shampoo, toothbrushes, baby wipes, diapers and more. Emergency management sources in Saginaw County suggested that Ochodnicky deliver the items to Swan Valley High School – one of the impromptu shelters. Several Shiawassee County residents contributed donations through Homeless Angels to help her effort.
Swan Valley High School is located on the outskirts of Saginaw. Approximately 16,000 people live in the region, and though it is south of the Midland/Gladwin area, Swan Valley was also struggling with property flooding and road closures, along with other areas surrounding Saginaw.
The St. Francis Nursing Home is nearby to the Swan Valley School District. Residents from the nursing home were moved into Swan Valley Middle School on Tuesday night, while other residents evacuated to the high school building. Principal Craig Blower was on hand to oversee the operation and assist as needed. The senior residents were purposefully separated from the others due to the COVID-19 crisis.
Blower was still on site on Wednesday to greet Ochodnicky, and her assistant Sam Schneider, when they delivered the donation to the high school. Since numerous bridges were not accessible throughout a large portion of mid-Michigan. Ochodnicky was forced to take a rural route to the school.
The school gymnasium had been converted into a sleeping area, with cots spread apart to help with social distancing concerns.
Blower shared that the school district had provided shelter for 50 people over Tuesday night. He did not know what to expect by Wednesday evening. He was happy to receive the donated items.
Per a phone conversation early on Wednesday with Jeff Weiss, Shiawassee County Director of Homeland Security, he said the county will be connecting with the Saginaw Emergency Management team to possibly share personal protective equipment, since COVID-19 is an obvious concern.