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Michigan National Guard responds to flooded communities

By Master Sgt. David Eichaker | Michigan National Guard | May 22, 2020

MIDLAND, Mich. – The Michigan National Guard helped rescue residents threatened by flooding in northern Michigan caused by the breaching of the Edenville and Sanford dams.

“Right now, we have three units staged in various parts of Midland,” said Army Maj. A.J. Przybyla, officer in charge, 1st Battalion, 125th Infantry Battalion, Michigan Army National Guard. “We have 13 vehicles spread out in between the districts and they’re there to support operations to pick up personnel that are stranded and bring them to their residence or up to Midland High School.”

“Overall, we have more than 130 Soldiers on ground supporting or prepared to support the current mission,” said Przybyla.

The state’s response is multifaceted as various organizations are coming together to respond to this crisis.

“The incident management team (IMT) is made up of police and firefighters throughout the county with leaders and specialists in different areas such as plans and communications,” said Steve McGee, a fire chief in Oakland County. “When someone is stranded or having a problem, they call 9-1-1 and anything water-related, we will alert a division for that rescue, and that is where the National Guard comes into play.”

The National Guard’s motto, Always Ready, Always There, held true as more than 130 Soldiers with specialized vehicles began to mobilize almost immediately after the dams were breached.

“I heard about the flooding about 30 minutes after the first dam collapsed,” said Pfc. Lydia Humphrey, 1073rd Maintenance Company, Michigan Army National Guard. “I received a call from my command around 11 p.m. last night (May 20) to come in right away and have been working since.”

The area received a lot of rainfall the past few days, prompting community leaders to warn people to evacuate.

“A lot of the residents took the advice and evacuated when they had time,” said Przybyla. “Because of this, we have had just over 10 dispatches for service and no more than 20 rescues at this point, which is great.”

Humphrey said Guard members were dispatched to bring a family to the high school.

“One of the residents was in a wheelchair and had two dogs, so that required additional help,” she said. “I love the idea that I can do things like this to help my community, and this is exactly what I signed up for, and I love it.”