SANFORD, Mich.—As waters receded here after a massive flood breached two central Michigan dams, Glenn Moots surveyed the damage Wednesday that devastated his home.

“When we left here, we were still praying for the best case,” said Mr. Moots, who fled his home early Tuesday after an emergency alert on his smartphone said dam failure was imminent. When he returned hours later with his family, he was overwhelmed by the destruction.

“We’re…

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