Posted on July 7th, 2020

Our Changing Landscape – Flooding in Midland, Michigan

In this monthly feature, we span the globe to examine Our Changing Landscape with a time series of medium-resolution PlanetScope satellite imagery. The PlanetScope constellation dates back to 2016 and collects hundreds of millions of square kilometers of 4 and 5-band 3-meter imagery daily! In last month’s edition of Our Changing Landscape we checked out shipping rates at Amazon’s largest fulfilment center before and during the COVID pandemic, but for the June edition we take a break from an infectious disease focus when we travel to central Michigan to check out the catastrophic flooding of Midland following a breached dam.

Click on the image above to see an animation of 3-meter natural color PlanetScope imagery collected over Midland, Michigan on May 13, May 20, May 21, May 22 and June 9, 2020. The May 13th image provides context for the extent of flooding seen in Midland, Michigan on May 19th and 20th right after the dam breach. In the subsequent May 21st and 22nd images, you can see the water receding – with the river back to normal levels in the June 9th image. Amazingly, there appears to be little long term damage to Midland, minus the damaged structures and homes, at least at the resolution seen here. (Images Courtesy: © Planet 2020)

The PlanetScope Microsat Constellation

PlanetScope is a constellation of more than 150 microsats referred to individually as Doves. Each Dove is able to collect up to 20,000 square kilometers (sq km) per day of 3-meter (m) 4-band multispectral (i.e. blue, green, red and near-infrared [NIR]) imagery; and newly launched SuperDoves collect 5-band multispectral adding in valuable red-edge spectral data. Across the constellation, PlanetScope is archiving more than 200 million sq km of medium-resolution imagery a day, making it the go to source for daily imagery over most locations. This massive archive dates back to 2016, offering the most complete and continuous record of spatial data on the planet since the start of the constellation’s ongoing launch schedule. Collecting 3-meter multispectral imagery is the equivalent of ‘high-resolution’ multispectral data imaged by a 75-centimer (cm) satellite (as this satellite would feature 75-cm panchromatic and 3-m multispectral), making PlanetScope an extremely competitively priced option at just $1.80 per sq km. With well registered images and nearly daily collections of most locations, PlanetScope is the ideal imagery source for this current-events focused series, Our Changing Landscape.

Flooding in Midland, Michigan Following a Breached Dam

Midland, Michigan sits in the middle of the Midwestern state as the name suggests, some 20 miles (about 30 kilometers) west of Saginaw Bay off of Lake Huron. The town of 42,000 residents lines the Tittabawassee River which over ran its banks during the night of May 19, 2020 and subsequently flooded the town. Following days of rain, the Edenville Dam which is some six miles (9.7 kilometers) upstream from Midland was breached, sending over 9 feet of water rushing into the town. Edenville Dam is owned by Boyce Hydro Power and apparently had been cited for several violations by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission prior to the breaching, including inadequate overspill capacity and unauthorized repairs. Thankfully local officials evacuated about 10,000 Midland residents, starting late Monday night, so no lives were lost in the flood. Floodwaters on the Tittabawassee River peaked at about 38 feet (11.6 meters) in Midland which is 14 feet (4.3 meters) above flood stage. While the true extent of the flooding damage had not been reported when this article was written, it is clear hundreds if not thousands of families and businesses lost their homes and offices. So now it is time to turn to the 3-meter PlanetScope record to check out some before and after images that show the extent of the devastating flooding in Midland, Michigan.

If you would like to find out more about using 3-meter PlanetScope imagery for your academic studies, engineering projects or any landscape analysis, let us know at or (303) 993-3863.

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