National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce


A stalled low pressure system and frontal boundary across the southern Great Lakes region brought record rainfall to southeast Michigan beginning the morning of May 17, 2020 and continuing into the afternoon hours of May 19, 2020. As a result, several rivers across the region flooded including significant flooding occurring along the Saginaw River and historic flooding along the Tittabawassee River in Midland county. The heavy rain in the Tri-Cities region resulted in the catastrophic failures of the Edenville and Sanford dams northwest of the city of Midland, resulting in the issuance of rare Flash Flood Emergencies for record-breaking flooding along the Tittabawassee River that resulted in several structures and roads flooded, and the evacuation of at 10,000 residents of the city of Midland. The heavy rain also resulted in several road closures across the rest of the region as well.

In addition to the heavy rainfall, a tight pressure gradient resulting from the area of low pressure further exacerbated already high Great Lakes water levels and enabled strong east to northeast winds to produce significant lakeshore flooding along the shorelines of Lake Huron (particularly Saginaw Bay), Lake St. Clair, and western Lake Erie. Significant river flooding once again occurred along the St. Clair River as well in portions of Macomb and St. Clair counties.

While a stalled low pressure system bringing soaking rainfall often occurs at least once or twice during the spring months in the vicinity of southeast Michigan, the combination of heavy rainfall, significant lakeshore and river flooding, and the resultant dam failures in Midland county make this event historically significant.

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